Brisbane residents break the Boundary

boundaryOn the last Saturday of winter, as the sun set over West End, local residents created a new public square by occupying Russell Street and throwing a protest party.

The headline act, local eight-piece The Mouldy Lovers, electrified the crowd with their big band beats prompting dancing to spontaneously break out in the street. What had moments ago been a dead sea of bitumen was instantly transformed into a buzzing social space.

Dubbed a protest with a twist, Break the Boundary was organised by Right to the City Brisbane. The group had held an ideas fiesta, Cracks in the Concrete, earlier that day. Pushing for more public space with greater community control, the group employed tactical urbanism as a means to achieve their goals on the night, if only temporarily.

In recognition that Brisbane was built on stolen  land, the Sovereign Women United were invited to participate in the occupation. Old hands at impromptu, powerful  actions, they arrived with red, yellow, and black paint for children to mark the giant fig with hand prints.

Roundly declared a success, the street occupation lasted for just under three hours before it was peacefully shut down by police with no fines issued. In refusing to apply for a protest permit, the organising group intended to raise the question as to who has the right to regulate and control how communities organise and exercise their democratic right to peaceful assembly.

In order to explain the logic behind the group’s actions, a beautifully illustrated zine was distributed on the night. Now available online, the zine included a call for a community debate to decide whether support existed to move ahead with a trial of the proposed square.

Break the Boundary challenged the traditional notions of what constitutes a protest. There were no political speeches and many passers-by may not even have realised it was a political event at all. Inspired by LGBT+ Pride, an event which is equal parts protest, community event, and a celebration of diversity, one of the goals of the night was always to blur the line between protest and street party.

Volunteers from the night reported a natural high that lasted for several days after the event. In exercising our collective right to the city, they experienced a rush of power quite alien to those of us who have grown used to contemporary Australia’s extreme regulation of public space.

In the months leading up to Break the Boundary, volunteers from Right to the City Brisbane put forward the idea to local residents and businesses and found there was almost universal support for the trial square.

Confidence piqued, the weekend prior to the event organisers knocked on the doors of local residents and popped into nearby business to let them know of the planned closure. There were no objections raised, many accepting the invite to come along on the night.

Break the Boundary is only the first of many interventions Right to the City Brisbane will be staging. We hope to have inspired our fellow neighbours to look at our city in a slightly different light. There is power in numbers and for those who wish to get more involved, join us at 6:30 pm on September 15 at The Red Brick Hotel, Woolloongabba for our next strategy and organising meeting, Streets of our Town.




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