Robert Forster was hand-picked to play at the Enoggera Bowls Club this week by the G20 organisers. And he apparently said “I’m not sure what’s more unlikely, Brisbane hosting the G20 or me performing at the Enoggera Bowls Club.”
And this beautiful quip sums up pretty much what is going on here. Equal parts SURREAL, equal parts BRISBANE AMAZING and equal parts UNLIKELY.
For once I’m not going to get too much on my high-horse (a steed named “I’m gonna ram some politics down your face”) here. I will try to be positive. After all, the event, as I write this, has barely started — in that talk-fest/meeting of lanyards way.
But in other ways the G20 event has been full-on for days and just a tiny bit intrusive for weeks and a little noticeable or notable for months.
Getting down to Monday to Thursday. The first thing that got noticed were the cops on bikes. Hundreds of brand new Specialized MTBs. 90% of which were in the medium size. I don’t know who made this decision but it was truly stupid. I saw countless female cops really struggling with the geometry and today I talked to a tall cop who showed me how many inches he had had to raise the saddle past the limit spot on the post.
This is a pic by someone I know on instagram. I don’t really wanna credit this pic seeing as it was labelled “PIG PELATON”. LOL.
GETTING IN TROUBLE
More because I was curious I wanted to brave the madness and come to work all week. I could have worked from home, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity to be part of this history. And naturally I was determined to be on my best behaviour, seeing how work was in the “Declared Zone” and the “Restricted Zone” was only a stone’s throw from where I worked. The “Declared Zone” was a big patch of Brisbane encompassing about 5 suburbs including the CBD that meant the Police had extra powers. Dee and I got to see those powers, but I’ll tell that story later.
And I was not disappointed. Every time I left the office there was some madness. See my usual routine is to wander over to the Queen Street Mall to get sushi for lunch. So there were motorcade drills, cops on bikes trying as best they could to stay in formation. Cops were EVERYWHERE.
The most crazy thing was the fact the city was as empty as I had ever seen it. But it was still a bit “busy”, but mostly just tourists were stuck hanging around — so it felt like a very dull amusement park. And it was like everyone felt they could walk on the right side of the footpath or jump out of doorways in the Queen Street Mall without looking or stop for a photo of some deadshit scene. UGH!
There were protests scheduled every day and I knew that and was on the lookout. I think it was Wednesday and I was walking across Victoria Bridge and I saw a protest group on the horizon still on Adelaide and about to pounce on the bridge. Although I was fully appreciative of all the sentiments of this rally, I still wanted to get out of its path and into the city so I started sprinting across the bridge so I would get over to the Mall and not be trapped on the south side in the hot sun with no shade and all those hunger pains rumbling in my belly.
When I got to the intersection, which the police had shut down I was a good 50 metres ahead of the rally. I started to cross confident that I was doing no harm and would be no nuisance to proceedings. But of course the QPS had other ideas. Suddenly I could see this cop shouting at me. I had my headphones on listening to the brilliant new King Gizzard LP and so it took him a second round of yelling for me to hear what he was saying. I yanked out my earphones to hear…
“GET BACK OVER THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD NOW!”
I did what I was told. But because I am a bit of a recalcitrant, I walked down the road searching for a new way to cross. Thankfully the march wasn’t as long as I thought and I got across the next intersection just as the march was turning. This crossing — it should be said — had many more cops, but they ignored me. Bizarre.
LANYARDS and SMUGNESS
I don’t think I have seen so many people wearing lanyards or so much smugness. It is quite incredible. I mean I have seen a lot of lanyards in use in my life, but not as many in use in the one place at the one time. And of course if you have a G20 lanyard, you kinda just have to have a smug look on your face. I don’t blame them. If I had a G20 access-all-areas I wouldn’t be able to contain myself either.
Steadily as the week progressed things got more and more weird. More fences, more cops, more helicopters, more roads closed, more suspicious looks from police and generally more everything. On top of that there were civilian security guards at every high-rise building around. There was ART suddenly springing up and this stretch of bank beside the railway on Hope Street was now respectable instead of being a junkie or sly-dumper’s heaven.
I don’t know where our cops have been living all these years but they got rather excited on Friday morning about some bubbles in the Brisbane River near GOMA. It’s just some drain venting and I see it almost every day, but this caused a major incident with police boats swarming around and around. Eventually the police realised what fools they were.
Dee and I went to the city on Friday afternoon for a sticky-beak and we arrived at Milton Train station 5 minutes early. (Only trains were running, no buses). I started struggling with the goCard machine trying to top up my card confident that the train was ages away. But then it arrived early and I had to cancel everything and dive on board. But then the train just sat there for ages and soon we realised it was a planned intermission. Suddenly a bunch of cops came down the aisle compulsorily searching anyone who had a backpack. We were now in the DECLARED ZONE.
After that we saw more lanyards and more police — I am not sure which outnumbered which. We saw this guy voluntarily in the foetal position at the bottom of the mall surrounded by cops as they presumably decided what to do with him.
“Legal Observers” were omnipresent. It was pointed out to me that they are actually trained in LAW and are there, through their own volition, to make sure the cops don’t overstep their duties (at protests etc). I think this is a great idea, and kudos to the LegalAid (I think that’s where they were predominantly from) employees for doing it.
And then we met Liss and Michael at Superwhatnot. And it was deserted. The poor dudes there were saying it was the quietest Friday night they had ever known. And so they were doing random renovations to the ceiling. For a while we were the only punters there.
THE MAD MAX 2 ENTRANCE
So the cops had all these gates where they had fences, then a car behind. The car would reverse away while two cops opened the gate and I could not help but the ink it was just like in Mad Max 2 where the fortified bus acted like a gate for their community.
So the cop in that car just spent hours and hours (we watched) just driving 5 metres back, then 5 metres forward.
Brisbane was of course deserted. I say “of course” because that was what the media kept saying. The government had two tunes. On a state level it was, “get out”. On a Brisbane City Council (BCC) level it was”stick around”. It was pretty bizarre. And because the State Government gave everyone in the BCC area a public holiday, you can guess who won.
But to me the real Brisbane people, those who had their hearts in this place, stuck around. And that crossed over to those people who were interested in politics. I LOVE this city when it is so different. I cannot imagine why people would brave incredible traffic (and it was epic apparently) to go to the gold or sunshine coast — just to be crowded around a bunch of other goobs doing the same thing (all from Brisbane). All the while everyone left here had the place virtually to ourselves — as long as you could put up with all the people wearing lanyards.
SARAH GETS FAMOUS
Just quietly— this happened to our mate Sarah:
etc! Good on you Sez!
Today, Saturday, Dee and I were terribly excited about Obama coming and we decided to invite some friends. And it was a bit like, “Who do we know that would be interested in hearing some US politician speak for ages?” Because we had no idea I just texted Ryan and Ella who were vaguely in the vicinity. But both of them came and it was actually quite amazing. 100% success rate! (thanks guys!)
Meanwhile Dee had gone to Toowong to get a new SIM card for her brand new iPhone 6 and then just texted me saying she was waiting by the side of Coro Drive for Obama’s motorcade. Random. The rest of us were in blissful air-conditioning and Dee had to wait a good 40 minutes for this shot:
And here is her thoughts on this event and other stuff:
Davey and I had talked, half-jokingly, about setting up camp at the Regatta on Saturday and waiting for the presidential motorcade to go by. Last night, struck by impending G20 fatigue after spending time in the city and South Brisbane, and thinking it more likely that Obama would helicopter to UQ, we both thought “fuck it”.
Cutting a long story short, I needed to go to Toowong Village to pick up a couple of things. When I left Toowong around 12:20pm, I was keenly aware that Obama was supposed to speak at UQ at 1pm and, instead of taking the backstreets, decided to check out what was happening on Coronation Drive.
I stopped to get petrol at the Shell on Coro Drive and overheard a taxi driver speaking to a cop, who said they would be shutting down the road for “a motorcade” (oh yes, secretive) in a couple of minutes. A COUPLE OF MINUTES. At that point, I decided that I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of seeing a very brief glimpse of a vehicle that was carrying the leader of the free world, for only a couple of my minutes! So I pulled into a side street and then set myself up on the river-side of Coro (in hindsight, probably a mistake due to lack of shade and angle of approach).
About ten minutes after I started loitering, the road cleared and I saw some police motorbikes making their way down Coro. Excitedly, I started taking photos while also keeping a real eye on the motorcade. I then saw it was just a couple of white cars with a crown as the number plate – AUSTRALIANS. Figuring it was either Abbott or Newman, I tried to make my best ‘ugh, you guys’ face. I am SURE they (turned out to be Newman) noticed my astute political comment in that moment. Anyway, I hope Newman enjoyed his (probably) first and (god willing) only motorcade moment. YOU DO NOT NEED THAT MANY POLICE ESCORTS. Also, motorcades go really fast, like, 90km/hr fast.
At this point, I will–somewhat ashamedly–admit that my hands got a little shaky when this faux-torcade (ooh, burn!) came screaming down Coro. I am a bit of an Obama fangirl, but even more than that, I am generally a POTUS fangirl – thanks, in no small part, to the following: basically focusing on modern American history in my studies, Aaron Sorkin, John F Kennedy’s Catholicism, having visited the US several times, and FDR. Yes, the US is, at the very least, on its way to being broken and I shudder to think that Australia is following in its footsteps in aspects of domestic (and, probably, international, if I knew more about it) policy; however, I really do hold the US dear.
But back to Barack – he is special to me too. Let me tell you the ways in which I love Obama more than you, even though you may feel the same way, but TRUST ME, just look at this list and you will realise that you are lacking: both of the general elections that he has run in, I have taken the day off to watch the results come in, and I remember watching Obama’s inauguration in Japan (having just left New York, with numerous bits of president-elect paraphernalia in tow) with such wide-eyed wonder and hope about the future, and… This list is not as impressive as I thought it would be. Anyway, we should acknowledge that, Obama being president hasn’t been as *super-awesome* as some of us would have liked. He has certainly had his challenges, too. But hey – universal health care is good, America, and I will never understand your aversion to it. I think my pal Bree summed it up pretty well when she called Obama her “problematic fave” because, let’s face it, any POTUS is going to be doing some shitty things regardless of their political stripes. So Obama is still – with a presidential caveat – one of the good ones, in my opinion. (PS – his speech at UQ was great, and any speech that is basically trolling Tony Abbott on his home turf is A-OK by me).
Getting back to it… so then the traffic lights switched to flashing orange and some more police on motorbikes started doing the rounds, and there were a couple of false starts with police cars. Finally, about 40 minutes after I first turned up, the presidential motorcade approached, and HOLY SHIT does Obama bring an entourage. He has two of his own ambulances! And at least five (I assume) Secret Service vehicles, with extra QPS 4WDs flanking them. It really was all over in such fleeting moment that it’s hard to say much more than it was worth sticking around. As you probably know, the motorcade has two identical or similar ‘Beasts’ so you aren’t sure which one is carrying the president. I’m pretty sure, today, it was the first one – there were more people in that one – but I can’t say I got a clear view of Obama. Still, it felt a little ‘historic’ and it was pretty cool knowing that he has given a speech in a place where I have had an exam-related freak-out.
I thought the speech was about 10 minutes too long but had all the right jokes and hopefully smashed home his message about climate change. How I love Obama. He is a DUDE.