From my latest thesis research, this account of the Independence Day protest outside the US Consulate in Melbourne on July 4, 1969 was featured in Greg Langley’s Decade of Dissent… and also made me have hot flushes and uncontrolled fits of swooning.
Armstrong was a lithographic printer and platemaker. He resisted the draft and, after a warrant was issued for his arrest, fled to China where he was granted political asylum. [I should also point out that this was SMACK BANG in the middle of the MOTHERFUCKING CULTURAL REVOLUTION. HELLS BELLS.] He and his wife, Janet, travelled and worked there for nine months until their departure for Albania. He worked for two years on the Albanian International broadcast station, Radio Tirana. In 1974, he and his wife returned to Australia with their first child. He is now a liaison officer with the CSIRO.
"Originally I was involved in the Worker-Student Alliance and the July Fouth Movement. In those days, we used to think that if we walked along Collins Street chanting, ‘Smash US Imperialism’ we would only have to chant a little louder and it would actually happen…
The Fourth of July demonstrations were a yearly event. In 1969 I remember waiting for the Monash University bus, carrying Albert Langer and company, to arrive. Their attitude was that they had to make a mark that would be felt around the world—it was part of the carry-on from the French revolutionary student movement.
The American Embassy was considered a symbol of American influence in Australia and was attacked in solidarity with the NLF [National Liberation Front, the armed forces of North Vietnam]. It was a violent demonstration. The police knew we meant business and were determined to break it up. They charged with horses, many people were hit with truncheons, and a lot were arrested.
A stack of marbles were thrown under the horses’ hooves and people were serious about burning the embassy down. Petrol bombs were lined up outside its walls; other people tried to smash every window in the embassy by shooting fireworks through them. One of the revolutionary students even booked a hotel room on the second floor of the Chevron Hotel, opposite the embassy. He communicated with people by walkie-talkie to try and direct the demonstration.
It was a heavy demonstration, but a good one in that it achieved headlines around the world. People began to realise, particularly in the US, that Australians were not taking all this crap about ‘Waltzing Matilda with you’.
The Monash Labour Club believed it was right to use revolutionary violence; later, for a brief period, people were joining rifle clubs to learn to shoot targets. There was a La Trobe University Rifle Club and a Marxist/Leninist Rifle Club. It was symptomatic of the time that people who were not the type to take weapons seriously, or handle them, thought revolutionary violence was justified.
The Viet Cong were our great heroes and it was reflected in the propaganda on the posters. The one with a Viet Cong woman in black pyjamas and a cone hat holding an AK-47 was considered to be the ultimate to have on your bedroom wall.”