Violence in Melbourne

The state of Victoria is afflicted by some of the world’s most permissive and pernicious abortion laws. The annual March for the Babies seeks to redress this state of affairs. This year’s march, which occurred yesterday, was marred by violence.

There’s no television reception where I’m staying, so I don’t know how the TV news covered the protest, but there is plenty of online comment. Lifesitenews reports that MP Bernie Finn is furious with police inaction:

What we saw today was literally a public mugging on the streets of Melbourne and Victoria Police let it happen,” Finn fumed. “We had people being assaulted, being kicked, being stomped on and they sat back and watched.”

Bill Muehlenberg, who was at the protest himself, ponders why pro-choice activists, who ostensibly demonstrated in the name of freedom and choice, proved so illiberal and intolerant:

Women are harmed greatly from abortions: physically, emotionally and psychologically. Indeed, that is part of the explanation for the utter rage, hatred and viciousness of these protestors.

Many have had abortions themselves and they are really hurting because of it, and seeking to take out all this on anyone who dares to tell them that they have taken the lives of their own babies. Many are the walking wounded, and instead of getting help which so many pro-lifers offer, they get even more bitter, angry and resentful.

Several seminarians joined the March for the Babies. Here, second year seminarian Michael Buck relates his own experiences and conclusions:

It has always taken a certain degree of courage to join the March for the Babies each year, given the sort of reactions that can be expected from many people when they discover that you spent your Saturday afternoon protesting against abortion. This year, however, is the first time since I began attending the march in 2008 that I have had cause to worry for my physical safety.

The march began as usual from the Treasury Gardens, supposed to begin at 1pm but there is almost always some delay. I was running a bit late as I made the walk down from the seminary in Carlton to the Treasury Gardens, so I joined the march at the intersection of Spring St and Flinders St around 1.15pm. The march had only just begun, and, as usual, I was surprised by the impressive display of thousands of people. Interestingly, a number of people remarked after the march that they thought the numbers had decreased compared with last year, but as one woman said, there seemed to be more ‘prayers’ among the marchers this year, and that was certainly reflected in the hostility with which the counter-protesters verbally derided and physically assaulted the pro-lifers. It was very confronting to see a group of people who seemed to deliberately identify with darkness, anger and hate, yet the stories of how disarmed they often became when met with an act of charity or a gentle word from a pro-lifer shows that these people have often been deeply wounded and need to be treated with charity and truth.

The trouble began once the march reached the intersection of Flinders St and Swanston St, with the iconic Flinders St Station, Federation Square, St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and, (last but not least!) Young and Jackson’s Prince’s Bridge Hotel, on each corner of the intersection. It was a stark image that even peaceful Melbourne is a battleground between the cultures of life and death. The pro-abortion group had banded together and were physically blocking the progression of the march through the intersection and up Swanston Street as planned. The march was halted, and there was much confusion about what was going on. Blaring music and shouting were clearly audible even from my position, at about the half-way point of the marchers, where I was unable to see the confrontation at the front. Word was quickly passed back through the crowd that the pro-abortion crowd had stopped progress, that there had been physical violence, and that Bernie Finn (the Hon. Member who, I believe, organises the march) had requested that we sit down to show that we will not move until the police come and clear the way. The wait lasted around an hour, during which a large group of us prayed the Rosary, but unfortunately a number of elderly marchers, who could not sit down and were struggling to stand in the sun for an hour, had to leave the march during this time. Eventually, the order was given to turn around and redirect the march up Russell St.

It was a relief to be on the move again. As we were walking up Russell St, the counter-protesters raced along beside us to again get in the way and stop us. As we marched, they shouted profanities, insults and blasphemies, and I witnessed one woman physically stopping a marcher from continuing, screaming insults at him and pushing into him. The poor man, who looked to be in his 60’s, was clearly intimidated but to his credit did not once push back or become aggravated. Very quickly, some female marchers came to his aid and calmed the woman down.

The worst of the day’s violence occurred at the steps of State Parliament. The pro-abortion rabble tried to wreck what had been set up, and claimed the central part of the ‘stage’ which was preventing the proceedings from continuing. Eventually the police surrounded them and they were moved a small way away down into the crowd, and we could begin. Throughout the speeches (according to another seminarian who was ‘on the frontline,’ as it were, next to this group) this group at the front continually screamed curses and pushed and shoved pro-lifers. Yet the violence was worst at the back of the crowd, unfortunately close to me. Two of the counter protesters rode bicycles into the crowd, with other cronies running in behind them. It was shocking to see elderly people knocked to the ground, and others injured by the bicycles hitting them. As pro-lifers tried to stop these people, naturally by physically stopping them, the violence started. One frenzied man repeatedly took swings at the pro-lifers, but I only saw him make an impact once. Others were being shaken and shoved. Many of the pro-lifers were middle aged, some were elderly, and this violence was shocking and frightening. Of course, the police were all up the front, and by the time they got to the back the violence had wound up as pro-lifers formed a wall and blocked the pro-abortionists out.

This year is the first that I have witnessed such violence at the March for the Babies, and I must say that I was thoroughly disappointed in the policemen who did not secure the safety of these peaceful protesters. It was clear from early in the day (and indeed the night before!) that the counter-protesters were intending to take an aggressive approach, and not only did the police fail to clear the intersection at Flinders Street, but they did not prevent the physical violence. In future, I hope that more police will be present and a more careful watch be kept on the counter protesters, so that violence which so easily could have been prevented, will be.

In the meantime, yesterday’s events are a good reminder of the need for continual pressure on our government, and perhaps more importantly, prayer for the conversion of this country and the protection of mothers and their unborn children.

God bless yesterday’s pro-life marchers, and their apostolate. Please God, our country will soon relegate to history the legislated slaughter of the unborn.

God bless, too, yesterday’s pro-choice counter-protestors – especially those wounded by abortion. May they know the peace only Christ can give.

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