So a new referendum has been called in Ireland to ratify the latest EU treaty and the political protestors are out in force. The issues are all very valid but it’s hard not to feel jaded by it all. The most dramatic political protest we’re had in recent years was when the cement truck emblazened with slogans against Anglo-Irish Bank was parked at the gates of the Irish parliment. But since then….?
Why can’t we have someone cut the dask that accompanied the opening of Sydney Harbour bridge in 1932.
At the various dignitaries and crowds gathering around in advance of the official opening, a horse-rider in military uniform slipped unnoticed between the army and police contingents and waited until the controversial Labour Prime Minister, Jack Lang, stepped up to perform the ceremonies. Then just as Lang moved forward, the rider spurred on his horse, shouted “in the name of the respectable citizens of New South Wales, I now declare this bridge open” and flourishing his sword, cut the ribbon.
Later the ribbon was retied for Lang to do the by then rather empty honours. The authorities tried to gag the press and smother the incident but of course it was too juicy not to come out. The authorities insinuated that De Groot, the intruding Irish horse rider, was mad. He wasn’t of course, at most just a little eccentric – he just hated Lang who he was convinced was dragging the whole country into Communism – this was 1932 after all and Australia was in the midst of the Great Depression. He was of the belief that only a member of royalty was worthy of opening the bridge – and certainly now this unworthy upstart.
DeGroot was released after paying a fine of £5 together with £4 costs. Later, whether in appreciation of his politics or the daring of his act, which indisputably had a touch of the Ned Kelly about it, De Groot received over 2500 letters and telegrams of congratulations from Australians all over the continent.
Now why can’t we have a little more of that style and imagination to our political protests nowadays?