Thousands of protesters have rallied in Sydney and Melbourne for the eighth week in a row, using the gathering to call for more support from the unions.
Protesters filled Sydney’s Hyde Park while those in Melbourne took up the entire road in front of Flinders St Station on Sunday as they called on Australian leaders to call for peace and end the fighting in Palestine.
A strong feature of the Melbourne rally was organisers calling on union executives, especially Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus, to join the calls for peace.
“The leaders of the ACTU, I want to tell them this, we want you to organise, organise and organise a union rally, one that bands them together,” Maritime Union of Australia WA Secretary Christy Cain called over the microphone.
“Sally McManus we need you, we need you at these rallies, we need you calling for peace.
“We need you to mobilise the masses around Australia and our connections around the world.”
Protesters were heard chanting “peace is union business, peace is all our business”.
While Ms McManus has not attended the rally, the ACTU says it “condemns attacks on civilians” and has called “for an end to the occupation of Palestine”.
“The ACTU calls on the Australian Government to exercise all avenues of diplomacy to stop the bombing and ground assault by Israel into Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire,” the union said in the weeks after the first attacks.
“We reiterate the Australian union movement’s strong opposition to war, violence and racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
“The killing of civilians & collective punishment must stop,” Ms McManus wrote on X, adding to the statement.
Red, green white and black were overwhelming as hundreds of Palestinian flags were raised by protesters or worn around their shoulders.
With tensions high on Australian streets in the fallout from the attack, protest organisers were quick to declare they were calling for peace rather than religious violence.
“Once again lets make it really clear, this is not a war and more importantly this is not a war on Jews against the Muslims,” one protest organiser was heard saying over the microphone.
“This has nothing to do with interfaith issues. We demand our leaders stop lying, we demand it.”
Her call was met with cries of “shame” from the audience, directed toward politicians and other leaders.
Prayers in English and Arabic were read out, with the crowd falling silent as they wished safety to Palestinians under siege.
Enormous Palestinian flags were seen at both protests, with Melburnians carrying theirs through the streets while Sydneysiders laid theirs on the ground.
“Where were you when people were being killed, where were you when hospitals were getting demolished, where were you when entire neighbourhoods were getting bombed. We’re going to remember, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
The protests have remained peaceful early into Sunday afternoon but a strong police presence can be seen at both rallies to keep things calm.
More to come.