Net filter protests fail to deliver crowds

UPDATE: Trish Zanetti at campaign organiser StoptheFilter estimates up to 300 people attended the Perth rally. She said numbers were effected by the short preparation time in the lead up to the event, and an environmental rally and the AC/DC concert held on the same day.

Nationwide protests against the Federal Government's Internet Content Filter plans held on Saturday struggled to draw big numbers.

Rallies were held in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The Parramatta Park event in Sydney attracted about 50 people, according to event organisers.

The low attendance has been a problem for the online activist groups since the rallies began in 2008, despite backing by the Greens, the Socialist Alliance and Electronic Frontiers Australia.

Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, attended the Perth rally which included Curtin University Lecturer, Dr Mike Kent and Liberal Democratic Party WA president, Mark Walmsley.

Ludlam told Perth attendees that the fight against the Internet filtering plan will be "won and lost online".

"It's not about whether we trust Steven Conroy or Kevin Rudd," Ludlam said. "What about an Abbott Government, or the one after that? How will it be used the next time there is some kind of moral panic or terrorism attack somewhere in the world?

"Once instituted this will be impossible to roll back.

"We need these gatherings to exchange ideads and contact details and go and have a beer and strategise," he said.

Stop the filter

The Melbourne rally was reported to have drawn about 100 people.

Greens MP, Lee Rhiannon, told Sydney attendees the Internet filter would give parents a "false sense of the security" about online saftey.

"We need to ensure that sanity prevails and that we win the numbers [to] embarrass labor and the coalition that this is no way to protect children," Rhiannon said.

"I urge all of you to write emails, ring policticans, the public pressure really makes a difference. I say to Kevin Rudd and Tony Abott that this will not work... it will make us look like a fool locally and internationally."

Australia Sex Party president, Sarah Jenkins, returned to speak in support of the protest movement at the Melbourne rally at the State Library.

Sydney protest organiser Shaz Salimian proposed to re-organise under a new group free of political agenda.

"[The] Net Freedom Coalition will unify [groups] to stop the Internet filter. All groups are welcome and will not feel threatened that a political party will take advantage," Salimian said in an online video.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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