The tradition of Palm Sunday rallies

By Yael Winikoff. Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  It has come to be traditionally viewed as a time to reflect on victory, joy and peace, and for these reasons has been a date that has been marked with marches and protests on such issues as war, nuclear disarmament and the broader impacts of the nuclear industry. On Palm Sunday 1982, an estimated 100,000 people attended anti-nuclear rallies across Australia’s cities. These rallies grew by the year, with an estimated 350,000 rallying in 1985.  The Palm Sunday rallies were part of the anti-nuclear movement which focused on halting Australia’s mining, abolishing nuclear weapons, removing foreign military bases from Australia and creating a nuclear-free Pacific.  In 1986 some 250,000 people marched, and in Melbourne the seamen’s union boycotted the arrival of foreign nuclear warships. The Palm Sunday rallies during this era, which were organised by the People for Nuclear Disarmament, reflected a strong and vibrant anti-nuclear movement which was successful in influencing government policy. In 1984 the ALP introduced the three mine policy, limiting the number of prospective and new uranium mines. Up until 1990, Palm Sunday attracted large numbers of people taking to the streets, with stalls and family friendly protests. After this time, the movement began to shrink, however Palm Sunday rallies continued to occur, demonstrating against various anti-war and anti-nuclear causes.   Many focused on the risk of nuclear war, and throughout the gulf wars, marches were held under the banner “no blood for oil.”  In Melbourne 2003, 25,000 people marched against the war in Iraq. In 2014, RAC (Refugee Action Collective) and RAN (Refugee Advocacy Network) canvassed the idea of holding pro refugee rallies on Palm Sunday, reflecting the growing crisis of Australia’s cruel treatment of asylum seekers and failed refugee policies.  Since then they have attracted a broad network of groups to co-organise these rallies, which have progressively grown in size since 2014.  Last year an estimated 15,000 people marched in Melbourne, demanding justice for refugees, closing the camps on Nauru and Manus and permanent protection for asylum seekers.   the AJDS participated in the organising committee and invited Jews for Refugees member Sylvie Leber to speak to the march alongside an interfaith panel. Sylvie Leber addressed the crowd on the Jewish experience of seeking safety and values towards refugees: “Judaism commands us to recognise the vulnerability of strangers among us, and to treat them with respect and dignity.  Indeed, with love, because our people have often been strangers in a strange land, and have stood where they now stand. We stand in solidarity with people of all faiths across our country who have offered protection and sanctuary for people seeking asylum. When France was invaded by the Nazis during WW2, my family was assisted and saved by people smugglers, who helped them get false papers and get them to the free French zone.  I would not be standing here today, I would not have been born, if it were not for people smugglers.” Sylvie’s speech available here: https://www.facebook.com/colette.leber.5/videos/10156675897560717/ View more pictures of the Melbourne 2016 Palm Sunday rally: https://www.flickr.com/photos/109891037@N06/sets/72157664035994764   Palm Sunday rally 2017 The 2017 Melbourne Walk For Justice For Refugees will be on Sunday April 9 at 2pm, commencing at the State Library.  AJDS has again been involved in the organising committee, and the rally is endorsed by AJDS and Jews for Refugees. The demonstration will draw attention to conditions on Nauru and Manus, which was declared illegal in April of last year, and demanding to bring them here. Organisers have also raised concern over the 30,000 refugees living in the community on Bridging Visas who cannot receive permanent protection, resulting in separation of families, uncertainty and fear of being deported under the government’s new fast track assessment process. We encourage all our members and supporters to join us at this Palm Sunday rally.  More details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/319469755104081/
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