Protests and barricades in my own backyard

Now, in terms of places that could spontaneously erupt into protests and barricades and revolutions, I see that more along the lines of, I don’t know, France or somewhere like that might jump to mind, however these events can sometimes occur right in your backyard! Struth! or in a more Collingwood area, I guess, I wouldn’t want to say Collingwood is MY backyard. Fair dinkum!

So let’s jump off the South Morang train line, back when it was still the Epping line (which, incidentally, a friend of mine did [SHOUT OUT!] at Victoria Park Station on our way to the beach one time, not to enjoy the view of the home of the Magpies, rather to vomit off the elevated edge of the station, which, while it was the result of drinking, it occurred just as I was informing them of two high school acquaintances who were now, then, currently dating. Ha. Comedy is all about timing!), and remember the civil disobedience in inner city Melbourne.

The city of Melbourne, following in the well trodden tyre-prints of many American cities *cough*L.A.*cough*, decided by the mid-20th Century to abandon public transport in favour of the mighty automobile. To this end, the State Government of Victoria designed a glorious new freeway plan that would criss-cross the whole city, cutting great swathes through the inner-suburbs. This stirred up a great deal of discontent within local residents whose houses would be reclaimed by the freeway-gods, and work on the overall plan occurred incrementally -due to residential pushback areas would be cancelled or shelved for several years only to be revived later.

By 1976-7, the State Government had decided to give one of its freeway plans another crack. The F19, proposed to connect Doncaster and Templestowe with the inner-and-north city, exiting under Hoddle Street into Alexandra Parade, and was based on the arguments that this would relieve clogged arterial traffic. Now the two neighbourhoods that would be greatly affected by this freeway exit were two of the oldest, meanest and scariest (haha, jk, please don’t hurt me) Collingwood and Fitzroy, the local residents of which were none too pleased with this plan. After a lot of back and forth between protest groups, the local council and freeway planners, events reached a head in October 1977 when police broke up a protest and arrested many anti-freeway campaigners, including the mayors of Collingwood and Fitzroy amongst the rabble, obstructing construction crews from working on the freeway. There was a measured response to this: BARRICADE! Yup, the fair constituents of Collingwood, Fitzroy an other Melbournian rabblerousers grabbed any handy abandoned cars, fridges, doors, slabs of concrete, corrugated iron and barricaded, head-high, the Wellington Street intersection. Protesters then camped out for a bit around the barricade to ensure police did not dismantle it and smattered it with slogans, such as one cheeky protester whom was stopped by police from including his “Fuck the Freeway” sign into the barricade, returned the next day with his slogan cleverly concealed in wordplay to now read “Free the Fuckway”. This was truly the height of political commentary and anti-freeway protesting.

Eventually though, the police arrived in earnest and removed the protesters and the barricades as the anti-freeway groups had lost momentum, and the F19 freeway began spewing cars onto Alexandra Parade and inner-city Melbourne.

A better timing for this may have been during the whole East-West Link stuff, to remind people the power that can be wielded by the average citizen (and here I could start a whole big thing about more freeways not being the solution to clogged freeways, that would be a whole other post). But if the proceeding decades of freeway construction have taught us anything, it’s that they will be back, and in greater numbers, so keep your abandoned cars and slabs of concrete on standby.


Sources:

Davison, G 2004, Car Wars: how the car won our hearts and conquered our cities, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Anonymous, 1978, Barricade! The residents fight against the F19 freeway, The Australian Independent Movement, Melbourne.

Hawkins, B 1980, ‘The battle of Alexandra Parade’, The New Internationalist Magazine, no. 92.

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