finally, finally, catholic world youth day week fiasco (deceptively marketed as world youth day) is behind us. all that is left is a few stray red orange yellow backpacks wandering around and a general sense of trauma. and, hopefully, a precedent for ridiculous laws to be challenged, and some atheist pride.
i didn’t really do much about the organising. i went to the meetings at newq, but i didn’t put my hand up for much, and i didn’t go to many meetings at other venues, including the important one, that happened to be on my birthday. the group i started so recently went on without me. i keep feeling like i should be apologising, but in fact it’s a spectacularly good thing, that i kick started something that is able to run without me.
i also didn’t get to most of the events i wanted to, even when it was no longer illegal to be ‘irritating’, and i stopped hiding under the bed waiting for it to all go away. i missed the world truth day event, world heathens day at unsw, the welcome, the kiss-in, and even the heretics’ bbq that sydney atheists put on right at the end. the time got changed a couple of hours beforehand, so i drove in early to check for people wandering around lost, but both gates were blocked off, so i wandered off to meet alex and we went and sat in a park in newtown. when the new time came and we tried to go back, there were roadblocks everywhere and we ended up going in circles. i got summoned by sms so we tried again, and it was even worse – half a dozen road blocks, with a river of pilgrims passing in front. some you could pass, if you waited, but you would always find another.
the one event i did get to, though, was the big protest on saturday. that was good. queer people and atheists, and queer atheists, which is a beautiful sight to see. and some who weren’t queer or atheist – the friendly catholics, the raelians (yes i know they call themselves atheist), the polish news team with their wyd lanyards flying agressively. standing around at taylor square went on for long enough to chat to most people i knew, and marching to the park felt positive and strong. not so being let into the enclosure, ringed with police, chanting across the barriers at the tide of pilgrims swarming down the mardi gras route. just wrong, really. we were using old forms of showing our displeasure, with watered down, ‘friendly’ messages. the tshirts may say pope go homo, but the message of the day was exhorting them to protect themselves. i don’t think many of them would care, even if they could hear and understand what we were chanting for all of a few seconds as they walked by our contained protest. mostly, from what i saw, we were laughed at and blessed, which was very unpleasant, as we watched in horror as the hordes just kept coming. if anyone was looking for a show of strength, i was certainly reminded of the way the world works. despite a respectable turnout, as protests these days go, they outnumbered us, by probably a thousand times. they also out-niced us, as wishy washy as our vocal messages were. of course, that’s not quite such a reflection of their church. still, there was one incident, to keep it lively; a pilgrim managed to jump the fence, get past the cops and take a swing at one of us. and for the first time ever, the police defended us, and took him away in handcuffs. handcuffs that he held up in victory, but handcuffs nonetheless. the police in this country have been helpful when i’ve been broken into or had my bag stolen, but not so great when i’ve been assaulted or crashed into. i have had them be sometimes friendly, sometimes incredibly abusive on the road, and when i’ve exercised that old democratic right to protest, i’ve seen them range from officious to menacing to planting a horse’s hoof five centimetres from my face. so sometimes it’s nice to see them doing their job, and think that maybe here, unlike many places, i won’t be dangerously discriminated against for being an out atheist.