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Ezekiel Ox: 'Save The Palace' Movement Cannot Be Demolished

21 November 2014 | 6:08 pm | Ezekiel Ox

Demonstrators will rally again on Sunday

Having been a victim of the attack on Save The Palace demonstrators last night, Melbourne musician and activist Ezekiel Ox wants to get the back on-message as he rallies the troops for another demonstration on Sunday.

This week Melbournians have witnessed an act of aggression, violence and disrespect against our city that will never be forgotten, and must not be allowed to stand. A place of great cultural significance has been desecrated, and it has been done in secret, against council directions.

Mini-skips were secreted into the newly named Chrissie Amphlett Lane behind the venue, and filled with hundred-year-old art and fittings that can never be replaced.

The Palace Theatre, Melbourne, which has been under threat from multi-national developers and their Liberal Party mates for over a year now has this week had heritage structures destroyed without a permit. Mini-skips were secreted into the newly named Chrissie Amphlett Lane behind the venue, and filled with hundred-year-old art and fittings that can never be replaced. One can only wonder what Amphlett would have thought as they moved the jack hammers in to destroy another live music venue, and dump the remains on top of her laneway and in many ways, legacy.

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Developers have perpetrated an act that goes against the very spirit of a movement that will not lie down, a movement that has been a thorn in the side of property developers and the 'new rich' of Melbourne, who want to live in the city but can’t handle the fucking noise that makes it great.

Greens Councillor Rohan Leppit has rightly described what happened this week on our sacred site as "sheer vandalism," and went on to say "there is no permit to demolish the building, and the owner knows that the council and government considers the interiors to be of significant heritage value."

Although I’m sure that he understands it, Leppit fails to mention the significance it holds for millions of Melbournians, past, present and future. Music fans, promoters, roadies, bar staff, theatre-goers, heritage buffs, businesses and residents have all been up in arms about this development. 37,000 people have joined the Facebook group and over 27,000 have signed the petition. The mob has spoken, and developers have been told to royally fuck off.

This movement and its successes (their original 100-metre tower became 55 metres, which then became 27, costing the company millions in revenue, and forcing the issue to be reviewed by council) has been played out on the streets, with pressure building because we refused to roll over, and stayed outside our venue, bringing music back to the front of it every Friday night for three months.

After learning about an application to demolish the site, the 'Save The Palace' movement, (which by now boasts connections to Music Victoria, Melbourne Heritage Action, National Trust, the Greens, Cherry Bar and local businesses and residents) took a PA down to the front of the venue on Fridays at 6pm, and turned the music back up in the face of the bleating from city hall.

Myself, King Of The North, The Pierce Brothers, Jakksen Fish, The Tesla Theory, Charlie Perkins, comedian Dave Hughes and Grim Fawlkner (just to name a few) came down and rocked the Bourke and Spring Street intersections, and we did it loud, with banners and petitions in hand, with rolling speak-outs against the developers and their supporters on Spring Street and in Town Hall. These speak-outs were a place for Melbournians to vent their frustrations, and share information about letter writing, council by-laws and to plan the many facets of our fierce and determined defense of our cities heritage.

We wanted the venue turned back over to the people, and we were willing to take direct action to stop them touching it.

The first night we turned up our slogan was born: “It’s not over yet!” - and it stands true today. We built from ten people at our first 'vigil' as they came to be known, to 250 on the final night, and the message couldn’t have been clearer. Developers Jinshan were not welcome, we wanted the venue turned back over to the people, and we were willing to take direct action to stop them touching it.

Council meetings were soon held which saw The Age reporting those at the meeting booing and hissing the developers as they had the nerve to stand before us and tell us this development was best for Melbourne, after the people of our city had firmly rejected it. The Mayor was forced to remove himself from one meeting because it was discovered that his former right hand man was working as a lobbyist for the hotel group that wanted to destroy our landmark.

The Lord Mayor Robert Doyle spoke in defense of Jinshan and W Hotels the night the venue was reserved for heritage appraisal by a council committee, saying it was unfair to “move the goalposts” on the multi-million dollar developers now community rejected plans, and that he personally didn’t like the theatre being there. Cry me a fucking river, Mr Mayor, I’m sure Jinshan and your other rich mates are used to getting their way, but this time the community’s reason and care had won a small victory. The sulking, whining message from the Mayor to the people of Melbourne was loud and clear; we don’t care what’s fair for millions, we care what’s fair for the rich, privileged few.

We will be loud, we will be proud and we will not be intimidated by corporate thugs or their government stooges.

At the time of writing, my request for a comment from the Mayor’s office has been met with silence, and that silence is deafening.

But the Melbourne music, heritage and cultural community will not be silenced. We call a peaceful, music-filled rally for live music and culture, and against corporate attacks on our sacred sights this Sunday November 23 at 2pm outside The Palace Theatre. We will be loud, we will be proud and we will not be intimidated by corporate thugs or their government stooges.

Are you sitting behind your keyboard now making an excuse as to why you can’t come this Sunday with your banners, instruments and voices? Or are you going to join the already strong tradition of Melbournians who don’t just talk the talk for rock and roll, but walk the walk for their community? Remember the time is now, and IT’S NOT OVER YET!