A Poem On the Anniversary of the Patrick Lock-out
|THE FREMANTLE PICKETS
The Patrick Lock-out, April 18th, 1998
And we were there, on Fremantle Harbour, in 1998;
A few at first in the dusk of that day as the hours ebbed
Away into advancing darkness; gathered at the gate to face
The threat of coming hostile force. We were one
Of the picket lines, with all hands on deck now
As we battened down for a stormy night
Near the wharves from which maritime workers',
The wharfies, had been driven by thugs with dogs -
The curs of Corrigan - and here outside high fences
We faced the wrecking of our rights, our working lives,
As all around the Australian coast our union, the MUA,
Would be fighting that same bitter battle tonight.
We were the Fremantle picket lines, the night watch
On the barricades of belief, tired out after
Long days and nights, but still there on guard
At the gates, shoulder to shoulder, and we were resolute.
All week we had heard that farmers were coming,
Truck on truck by the hundred to smash through
Our pickets, but we were a union united, we held the line.
We were steel fired in the furnace of solidarity -
Welded in the links of that living human chain -
Because we were shackled by belief to our principles
And to that time, and to our comrades,
And to that working place and port.
We had thought it but another night on the pickets
At the harbour gates, but there was something
Stirring, strange, tremors of turmoil in the salt air;
The sea nearby a war-song of surf thundering inland,
A drumbeat echoing the march of police, 700 strong,
To their hidden barracks inside the barriers.
The word went out - and from Fremantle, the city
And the suburbs, the people came to join us
In that great gathering : artists and academics,
Schoolteachers, nurses, workers, wives and mothers,
Pensioners on their last legs, and the people
Of the port, they came again, as ever.
Above us, against the drift of clouds and stars,
Aircraft trawled the night, circling, cameras recording.
Helicopters clattered across the sky hour after hour,
Searchlight beams burning down - lighting the way
For the MUA and the union members of the CFMEU
And the Metal Workers’ marching to join us.
All the long hours we watched and waited in the pickets,
Arms linked together, united, a thousand strong on the line.
All night long the State Government’s uniformed front -
The body-armoured, weaponed, special tactical force -
Wielding shield and baton, marched and practiced,
Rehearsing their brutal ballet, their dance of war.
The Farmers’ Federation and their trucks were coming!
They were coming with all their cohorts of riot police !
The goons with their dogs and the masked clowns
Of Corrigan were coming to batter us and break our lines -
So the media said, so the media said -
And so the night went by until the sun wheeled into the sky.
And with the coming of the day we stood there still,
Waiting, in the massed ranks of the picket lines -
Four thousand strong by that cold dawn - and they did not come.
They did not come because we stood shoulder to shoulder
With the people of the port, and all were resolute.
And because we are the MUA and we are here to stay.
IN REMEMBRANCE :
A POEM FOR MY COMRADES IN
THE MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA.
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