The first Freedom Ride national rally against the VLAD Laws has been a resounding success with close to 3000 in Brisbane and thousands more in 24 simultaneous rides in every state of Australia rallying in support.
But the speakers at the festive and boisterous Brisbane rally have declared it is just the start of a long fight against draconian legislation claimed by the Queensland Government to be the “world’s toughest anti-bikie laws”.
Rally speakers say the laws also attack the civil liberties and human rights of every citizen, not just motorcycle riders.
Brisbane Freedom Ride organiser Gabe Buckley (right), dressed in a pink vest, declared at the rally that he would stand for the Liberal Democrats Party (LDP) in the February by-election to send a message to the incumbent government.
“We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this lying down,” he told the crowd of almost 3000 outside Parliament House before leading them through the swearing of the Eureka Oath: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”.
Paul Keyworth, who has been campaigning to start the Motorcyclists Australian Party says he believes he now has the required 500 signatures to establish the party and will also consider running in the Redcliffe by-election.
Paul told the crowd the Queensland Police were not the enemy, but were obliged by bad laws and instructed by an errant government to harass riders.
“Enough is enough,” he declared.
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Michael Cope described how the government’s Vicious Lawless Associations Disestablishment (VLAD) Act could turn any organisation into an outlaw organisation.
He said the laws were not needed and that they turned people into criminals not for what they had done but for whom they knew and with whom they associated, which was breach of “fundamental liberties”.
He also rejected the Police Commissioner’s voluntary ride register for recreational riders trying to avoid unwanted police harassment.
“Why should people register with the police when they want to go for for a ride on a Sunday morning?” he said to strong applause from the crowd outside Parliament House.
Electrical Trades Union spokesman Peter Simpson said the laws were worse than Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Continuity of Supply Act of the 1970s in which three or more workers could not gather without being declared a criminal gathering.
“People should be able to ride and associate with whoever … they want,” he said.
“The ETU stands beside you.” He called on voters in the Redcliffe by-election to put the Liberal National Party candidate last on their ballots so that the LNP not only lost the seat, but also suffered a massive swing of up to 25% to send a strong message to the Premier.
NSW Senator-elect and Triumph Speed Triple rider David Leyonhjelm (LDP) provoked a huge response from the crowd with his opening remarks: “I’m here today to reassure you there are still politicians that value liberty.”
He said the Queensland Government was creating a “moral panic” about bike riders who were singled out by the laws and police, and vilified in the public’s eyes. (More from the Senator-elect will be posted in a separate story.)
Stephen from Anonymous also addressed the crowd. His organisation’s video which warned the Premier that they would not forgive or forget was branded “gutless” by The Courier-Mail newspaper.
He said the mainstream media was “too gutless to tell you the truth”.
While most of the TV stations and many radio stations were present, the News Ltd newspaper apparently only sent a photographer.
They missed some of the strongest and most positive points of the rally from Australian Motorcycle Business Chamber founder Travis Windsor.
He said the draconian laws cost Queensland’s 1500 motorcycle-related businesses more than $5m a week in lost trade and jeopardised the jobs and livelihoods of up to 10,000 people. Read the story here.
He said the laws were dissuading riders from riding and also affecting industries such as hospitality and tourism.
He called on riders to ride, spend their money in bike shops, cafes and pubs.
Travis also suggested an annual Sturgis-style bike rally on the Gold Coast to inject much-needed tourist dollars into the state.
On a personal note, the family of Kevin Hill (left) told of how their father and husband, incarcerated for a minor parole breach, had been a model prisoner until the new laws took away all his jail privileges and locked him in a cell for 23 hours a day.
And on a humourous note, father and son Chris and Noel Webbe sang several protest songs. Click here to watch the short video.
Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard, attending a Freedom Ride in Hobart with hundreds of other riders, said the national rally had attracted several thousand around the nation.
“We weren’t the organisers of it and as far as I know my participation was the only direct involvement,” he said. “However, from the reports I’m hearing it sounds like it achieved what people set out to achieve.”