Melbourne, So-Called Australia: Anarchists Counter Anti Drug Injecting Room Protest

Received on 23.11.19:

On Saturday 23 November, an informal network of Richmond-based, anarchist drug users operating under the moniker, Smack Bloc, undertook several small actions in response to the ongoing campaign by the MSIC Residents Action Committee (MRAC) to ‘relocate’ the North Richmond Medically Supervised Injecting Center (MSIC).

For the past 6 months, MRAC have engaged in a hysterical, misinformation campaign of lies and harassment, in an attempt to stymie the MSIC’s operation. The MSIC is a harm reduction initiative which provides a safe and non-stigmatising space for drug users to inject without fear of arrest and risk of overdose, and provides access to free primary health care options. Since the MSIC began operating in mid-2018, the space has reversed hundreds of potentially fatal heroin overdoses, a stark contrast to the 34 overdose deaths which occurred in the Richmond area in the 12 months proceeding the MSIC’s opening.

On Saturday 23 November, the MSIC Residents Action Committee, in association with the Victoria Street Business Owners’ Association, held a march from North Richmond railway station, along the area’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, Victoria Street, concluding with a rally directly outside the entrance to the MSIC. To promote the rally, a series of hysterical posters were pasted along Victoria Street Richmond, in areas frequented by street-based drug users and pedestrians. The posters referred to the MSIC as a “drug den”, and involved highly emotive photographs of traumatised children.

Smack Bloc’s response to MRAC involved creating posters of our own, which we pasted up along the route of the march, covering MRAC’s posters (which we were pleased to note, were almost all torn down before we got to them). We also removed a banner from opposite the MSIC.

Today’s march and rally, which was expected to attract over 300 people, ultimately involved a paltry 100 participants, dozens of police, and so many ‘Australian’ flags the event was reminiscent of a patriot/fascist rally.

A diverse group of MSIC supporters, brandishing a banner reading ‘Stigma Kills’, were in attendance, albeit heavily surrounded by police, and under warning not to engage with rally participants or risk being ‘moved on’.

Smack Bloc will continue to challenge the MRAC anti-drug user narrative and further attempts to organise.

Below is the text of the communique that was pasted up along the route of the march in Richmond….

Smack Bloc, Communique #1

22 November, 2019

The North Richmond vigilante group, MRAC (MSIC Residents’ Action Committee), are a nest of predominantly white, middle class, gentrifiers whose faux community concern is merely poorly disguised contempt for injecting drug users and a cynical attempt at increasing local property values.

With support from alleged serial sex pest and political opportunist, Yarra Counsellor Steven Jolly, on Saturday 23 November, MRAC will hold a rally outside the entrance to the Medically Supervised Injecting Center. MRAC state they are calling on the Andrews Labor Government to “relocate” the injecting room; however, Richmond-based drug users view this as an attempt at intimidation.

In 2015, the Victorian Health and Wellbeing Act was amended to exclude pro-life, religious fanatics from protesting within 150 meters of abortion clinics, and harassing or filming women entering or leaving the premises. Yet, MRAC, whose members are unashamed about filming illicit drug users within the surrounds of the injecting room, intend to hold a rally less than 20 meters from the only entrance to the facility. Identical to the picketing anti-abortionists, the MRAC vigilante group intend to harass and hound people seeking access to a primary health care service.

MRAC’s anti-drug user agenda is clearly articulated by Allan Cove, a local real estate agent, who suggested at a 15 May, 2019 meeting that the solution to illicit drug use in North Richmond is a “commando squad with machine guns to clear them off the street”, a proposal which was greeted with laughs and applause from MRAC members.

Hating drug users, or locking us up, will not make us simply disappear. Genuinely addressing the issues surrounding illicit drug use demands evidence based policy changes. Support initiatives which will make a positive change in our community!

– Drug dealer tolerance zones, based on the Berlin Gorlitzer Park model

– Decriminalisation of drug use and drug possession

– Heroin maintenance scripts for dependent opioid users

– Expanded and prioritised public housing options in the Richmond area

– Reinstating the after-hours needle vending machine at North Richmond Community Health

– Increase the quotient of peers employed at North Richmond Community Health harm reduction initiatives

– Increased Centerlink payments to negate the poverty experienced by welfare recipients and improve the standard of living across the board

– Public acknowledgement of support for the 2 outreach workers recently arrested on bogus drug trafficking charges in the form of a public apology, job reinstatement, and compensation

– An end to political interference and tabloid media pandering in the operation of the injecting center (exemplified by the forced resignation of the CEO)

This communique was published by Smack Bloc, a network of drug users residing in Richmond, funded by the proceeds of illegal street based sex work.

Smack Bloc are in no way associated with the Medically Supervised Injecting Center/ North Richmond Community Health.

 

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