Byron Bay, NSW, Australia
February 8, 2003
Anti-war feelings laid bare in a stark message to Howard
By Rachel Browne
February 9, 2003
The Sun-Herald (Sydney, Australia)
In a twist on the traditional protest rally, 750 women shed their clothes to express their rage against the proposed war in Iraq.
The women congregated in a paddock at the small town of Federal outside Byron Bay yesterday, using their naked bodies to spell out "No war" in giant letters.
Singer and songwriter Grace Knight, who helped organise the Disrobe to Disarm protest, said she was overwhelmed by the support she had received.
"We only needed 67 women to turn up, but we got 750," she said.
"It was just one of the most electrifying things I have ever experienced. These 750 women are desperate to let the Prime Minister know that they do not agree with his decision to join the proposed war on Iraq."
Similar protests have taken place in Europe and the US, where about 30 women braved freezing temperatures in New York's Central Park to spell out "No Bush" in the snow.
Warm conditions on the NSW North Coast were kinder to Australian protesters.
"It just shows how strongly women feel about this," said Knight, former lead singer with the 1980s band the Eurogliders.
"These women came here today because they feel they are being lied to by our Government and they feel their dissent is not being heard."
While Knight said she and her fellow peaceniks were not all comfortable with the idea of posing nude, they were convinced by the importance of the cause.
"We want to let John Howard know that we are not happy and if it takes lying naked in a paddock to get the message across so be it," she said.
Knight became involved while writing material for her new album. So distracted by the threat of war that she couldn't concentrate on her music, she decided to get her female friends together so they could make their voices heard.
News of the rally spread by word of mouth and chain e-mails. The women were told to meet at a marshalling point at Federal before being taken to a secret location for the photograph.
This story was found at http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/02/08/1044579982858.html.
Letter from an organizer of the event
I have been spouting off in the world press about this group of amazing women in Marin County whose picture in a newspaper stopped the world, as I knew it, and shifted me into the type of determination and concentration that I have only ever experienced whilst giving birth. I have only one child and his birth was the most powerful, beautiful, experience of my whole life. I am a singer/songwriter/performer and whilst I found the words spewing from my pen to write the verses of a song, I was utterly flummoxed when it came to writing a chorus. I had nothing positive to say, and for me as a songwriter there seems little point in reminding myself and others of the state we're in, without a chorus that inspires and lifts the listener's heart.
I kept looking at you gals' pic in the paper on the table in front of me and my tears kept rolling and rolling. I was angry I was sad I was frustrated and the tears kept rolling.
I was angry that I could see through the US and Ozzie propaganda that was set up to strike fear in the hearts of the population so that our governments could convince their respective communities to accept their plans to murder innocents in Iraq.
I am not a political person, I cannot argue politics as I am unread. Until now I felt unable to have an opinion that I would publicly talk about, for fear of easily being shut down by someone who knew their politics and policies. However I have realised you don't need to be Einstein to work out what's going on here and that from the point of view of a Mother and a female, THIS IS WRONG. And knowing that, it was my duty to say so, from a Mother's point of view.
Byron Bay is world known as an 'alternative' community. There are many artists, writers, film makers, and creative people up here, many of whom are my friends.
My journalist friend Kate wrote a very moving and HONEST letter of invitation to the women of the shire, which we spammed through e-mail, asking the recipient to forward it on to her female friends. My filmmaker friends and peace activist friends helped me to keep my promise of protecting the women's modesty, by finding a secure site where we could stop prying photographers - with enormous lenses. An ultralight pilot offered to take our video cameraman up to get overhead shots for TV news footage. A paparazzi friend and his wife offered to take the photos and to have them up on the Web for world press to access - who incidentally disrobed himself when 750 were told to remove there sarongs.
My dear friend Michele, who's an art director, brought another art director along. To mark out the site, so that the women would be in frame for the shot, we placed the cameraman 20 meters up a tree. My manager fielded interviews prior to the shoot. We needed to sell the event prior to it happening and in his words, 'Grace, if no one turns up tomorrow for the shoot, know that it is already a success.' I did interviews all over Australia saying what we were about to do. This helped the women to participate. They needed a vehicle that would give them the opportunity to have a very LOUD and STRONG voice.
Others were Marshals to form the letters clearly and one woman stood up to keep the women focused. An aummmmm, which changed shape and pitch, which massaged us, which connected us. That sound lasted for ten minutes whilst the last few stragglers came running up the hill disrobing as they ran to join their sisters.
We got our shots in minutes and as fast as the women came, they left. I finished two interviews and went back to the site and it was empty! Had this happened? No chit-chat, no bogged cars, no lost knickers. GONE. 750 women disappeared in minutes. The men of our community came together respecting the women and protecting the space and the boundary line to the property from unwanted guests.
I saw a policeman who had to turn up to ask the owner of the land if we had permission to be there, with tears welling in his eyes as he watched young saronged women help the elders up the hill. A mass of colourful sarongs and bodies was a very moving sight. He sat on a grassy mound sipped a glass of water to gather himself up before he left.
The pictures were used by media in these countries: Brazil, Italy, Germany, UK, Scotland, Dublin, North America, and nationally across Australia. As was the TV footage we shot. And still the press are using these pics.
So inspired by the day's events, I am unable to come down from the high from the feeling of empowerment, and even more determined to continue these NO WAR protests.
I am attempting a similar action in Sydney and am presently trying to secure a venue where women will be safe and not harassed by the police.
This is not as easy as securing a privately owned paddock in a rural area.
To the women of Marin County Please know that your courage has and is continuing to inspire women the world over. Thank you for waking ME up. God bless us all, the world over, and save us from the desperate men in our governments.
All my Love,
750 Women Go Nude in Protest The Sunday Mail, Brisbane, Australia, February 9, 2003
Australians bare all in anti-war protest BBC News, February 8, 2003
Baring Witness photo album Baring Witness home page