Defend the Tecoma 8

The Tecoma 8

Eight community members were sued by the McDonald’s corporation for peacefully protesting against the planned store in Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges.

Tecoma group

The campaign
The small township of Tecoma has been fighting a two year battle against the inappropriate development of a McDonalds in its main street. To read the background to this sustained community campaign go to burgeroff.org This struggle has raised questions about the rights of local communities to have proper input into the planning process. Recent developments however raise the question, do we have the right to protest against powerful interests at all?

Roof Occupation and blockading begins
On the July 1st, McDonalds began to attempt to demolish the old Hazelvale Dairy on the development site and the community immediately began to peacefully protest in large numbers. An occupation of the roof and a determined blockade of the site to prevent trucks and contractors entering began. By the third day of the blockade, construction was shut down when the CFMEU pulled all workers off the site due to safety concerns and out of respect for the community’s wishes.

McDonalds sues the eight
In an outrageous use of the courts, on Tuesday 16th July McDonald’s began serving papers on the “Tecoma 8”, summoning them to appear in the Supreme Court on July 18th. The 8 individuals being sued were being held responsible by McDonald’s for all the damages and costs McDonald’s allegedly faced in relation to delays to construction. Melbourne’s Herald-Sun estimated the initial costs sought to be $325,000.

The injunction
The interim injunctionin place until the 1st August, not only placed restrictions on the 8 people served but anybody who entered the McDonald’s site, without their consent, between 1 and 17 July 2013 and unnamed persons who impeded the access of workers or vehicles to the McDonald’s site between 1 and 17 July 2013.

The injunction not only prevents all those covered from protesting non-violently within a specified area but also prevents them encouraging others to continue to non-violently resist the demolition at the site. The judge said that social media was not to be used by those covered by the injunction as “a call to arms”. The McDonald’s lawyers brought into court as evidence reams of screenshots from social media. This is arguably the most undemocratic and controversial part of the interim order.

All of the people named in the suit were accused of no more than non-violent civil disobedience resulting in minor criminal charges such as trespass. One of the eight is alleged to have momentarily delayed a truck in an incident in which they were not even charged with an offense. Others were accused of acts such as briefly being on a roof to take photos or delaying a portaloo truck! McDonald’s has also cited as evidence their “incitement” of others because they dared to give interviews to the press or encourage people to protest on social media.

McDonald’s drop damages claim but still seeks legal costs and a permanent injunction

On 6 September McDonald’s filed a ‘Statement of Claim’. This is the document that sets out exactly what remedies McDonald’s is seeking from the ‘Tecoma 8′ and the people in Groups A to D. In that document it was made clear that:

  • McDonald’s is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the Tecoma 8, and any of the people in Groups A to D, from doing the things prohibited by the current injunction;
  • McDonald’s are not seeking any compensation for the losses they have suffered as a result of the protest;
  • McDonald’s are seeking legal costs from the Tecoma 8. These could be very expensive.

On 20 September Justice Kyrou of the Supreme Court will make a decision about whether or not to grant the permanent injunction, what it should cover, and who it should apply to. A decision about legal costs may be made at that hearing or at a later date.

 Justice Kyrou delivers judgement on 20th September 2013

As previously noted, on 27 August there was a hearing in the Supreme Court about the injunction that had been ordered on 18 July. At that hearing, the lawyers for the Tecoma 8 argued that the Court did not have the power to make an injunction binding unnamed community members. McDonald’s argued that the injunction was valid, and should be extended to cover anyone who had trespassed onto their property, or who had impeded the access of workers or vehicles to the site, between 18 July and 26 August.

On 20 September Justice Kyrou gave his judgment about this matter. He decided that the Court did have the power to make such an injunction, and that it should cover anybody who had trespassed on the site, or impeded access to it, between 1 July and 26 August. He made a new injunction to reflect this decision.

Maurice Blackburn Press Releases and Announcement

 31 October 2013

Mediation resolves “Tecoma 8” legal case with McDonalds

The legal case between protesters opposed to a fast-food outlet and McDonalds Australia has been resolved following a court-ordered mediation held in Melbourne on 29 October,2013.

A McDonalds outlet is currently being built in Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges and is the subject of a high-profile community campaign.

The settlement is still subject to approval by Justice Kyrou of the Supreme Court of Victoria. McDonalds and the defendants have agreed on a joint statement about the settlement (see below).

“The agreement is a significant relief for the ‘Tecoma 8′ who found the case to be extremely stressful,” said Elizabeth O’Shea head of Maurice Blackburn’s social justice practice.

“The firm has acted pro bono in this case because peaceful protest is fundamental to civil rights and democracy.”

Joint statement of Maurice Blackburn and McDonalds Australia

“The parties wish to announce that agreement has been reached to settle the Supreme Court proceedings by McDonald’s Australia against eight defendants as well as the people for whom they were appointed as representatives by the Court. The proceedings concerned protest activities regarding construction of a McDonald’s outlet in Tecoma.

As part of the agreement, McDonald’s has agreed to discontinue the proceedings and is not seeking any legal costs from the defendants. In exchange, the defendants have agreed personally and on behalf of those they represent not to undertake activities which may constitute trespass or nuisance until 30 June 2014.  If the settlement agreement is breached, McDonald’s has the right to reinstate proceedings against any of the named parties. McDonald’s can also seek other remedies against any others bound by the orders if they are breached, including applying to issue proceedings for contempt of Court. The order sought will  allow the defendants and those they represent access to the footpath in front of the site except for the purpose of engaging in trespass, nuisance or harassing or intimidating people on the McDonalds land.

The parties will now jointly seek approval of the resolution by the Supreme Court. The existing injunction continues until the Supreme Court makes that order. 

All parties are pleased to have reached agreement and for the Supreme Court case to be finally resolved.”

McDonald’s are watching you!
The level of surveillance by McDonald’s of citizens protesting against them has also been extraordinary. Private security have constantly been photographing people and surveillance cameras have been erected round the site. Social media has been trawled for evidence of “incitement”. All of this evidence is now being used to identify and sue individuals including posts from people’s personal  Facebook pages. Posts from the campaign page Burger Off and the Facebook pages No MacDonalds in the Dandenong Ranges and No Maccas in the Hills were submitted as evidence. The “about” sections of both pages were cited to demonstrate their purpose to organise peaceful protests.

While unaffected Tecoma residents have attempted to continue protesting, the convoluted nature of the court rulings has been used against them. A concerted attempt has been made by the security force retained by McDonald’s to misinform, bluff and intimidate protestors by false warnings and threats backed by hundreds of intrusive photos of peaceful protestors.

A test case for civil liberties?
This is nothing short of corporate bullying of ordinary citizens of the worst kind. If this law suit stands then it sends a warning to all groups whose non-violent protest costs a large corporation or powerful interest money. A precedent whereby the courts are used to target individuals and hold them responsible for the actions of the whole demonstration could affect union pickets, environmental direct actions, students protests, or other residents groups opposing development. Do ordinary citizens need to feel they are risking their houses just to take part in a non-violent act of civil disobedience against powerful interests who can ‘buy’ their decisions through expensive court processes?

Read more about the Tecoma 8 at www.tecoma8.org

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31 thoughts on “Defend the Tecoma 8

  1. Julie morris

    Keep it up ! its your community! A gp friends of Station st (foss) successfully stopped pokies machines in our strip shopping centerwe were on the ph from 7am till 11pm but it worked. Keep strong julie

    Reply
  2. CMA

    So, is VCAT saying that if a massage parlour complied with the building permits, criteria, regulations etc then that could be placed on the same site? Would the residents of Tecoma be persecuted for fighting that?

    Reply
  3. David Hornsby

    I will never enter a MacDonalds while they are insisting on in appropriate development and suing people for peaceful protest. More corporate greed!

    Reply
  4. Graham

    Surely a case can be brought to the Supreme Court against the Government, VCAT, MacDonalds etc for gross violation of democratic rights, cultural invasion, environmental and social disruption and many other adverse impacts, appeal when losing, as would be expected, and proceed to the High Court where most hope lies I expect.

    Reply
  5. Michael Wellard

    Security are taking photos? It’s a good thing there are no children among the protesters or with any protesters as it’s highly unlikely any of those taking the photos will have a working with children card. Gets ugly in court!

    Reply
  6. Liga Byron

    Hi Fighting Folks! I support you 100% in everything you’re doing. I’m disgusted with VCAT and question their ethics and even more with McDonalds for bullying our residents and bulldozing our little township. I will NEVER set foot in that abominable fast food outlet!

    Reply
  7. Paul Belfrage

    utterly appalling..the more i read the more i want to gag. Who are these macca’s executives?
    Keep up the good work Tecoma!..they cannot arrest over 80,000 of the community!

    Reply
  8. Nick Williamson

    Keep up the good fight folks.
    You are an inspiration to ALL, large corporations rely on people being apathetic, not Tecoma.
    Byron Bay recently said NO to KFC and managed to put Goliath back in his spot.
    Macca’s take a hint you are not wanted!!!

    Reply
  9. Carol

    I am utterly appalled at VCAT and disgusted by McDonald’s total abuse of power. What is there to not understand about a community not wanting toxic McDonalds on their doorstep?! Even if McDonalds manage to build premises where they are not wanted, I hope that NOBODY will ever purchase anything in it. Better still, I hope EVERYBODY stops buying toxic McDonalds – imagine how much healthier Australians would be?!! This incident at Tecoma speaks volumes on corruption, greedy corporations and the total disregard of “consumers”.

    Reply
  10. Tanya Stott

    McDonalds would do well to be gracious and listen to the people. Arrogance is not an attractive quality and many of us are weary of the countless examples of abuse of power that occur on a daily basis and in a myriad of ways in our world. I fully support the Tecoma anti Mc Donald’s campaign and admire the
    tenacity that is being displayed!

    Reply
  11. Jeff Kinsman

    There is something of the “William Tell story” about this. Keep agitating, please. This case goes right to the ‘new heart’ of the 21st century version of democracy. It is essential that our lawmakers reform some of their doctrines and their systems so that justice is possible in situations like this one, where the opportunists and their iconic clown have gone too far. McDonalds have fundamentally disrespected their patrons, and they needs to be brought into line. Don’t be fooled by corporate claims to ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’. Money and the means of making it should never trump local interests. All the best with protecting both the substance of your community and their self-determination. Please, maintain your rage.

    Reply
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  17. Peter Eltherington

    You are inspirational so keep up the good work. I live in Brisbane and have vowed never to enter a McDonalds again. When I say never I mean NEVER. They have done their brand no good at all. Their bullying tactics are to be railed against. Fight the injustice. You have right on your side and all they have is no morals and money. This is an important issue about the abuse of corporate power over a pathetic government agency. They should be ashamed of themselves as well.

    Reply
  18. Christopher

    I live in the inner west of Sydney near Paramatta rd McDonnalds. Here are two things that i notice living near a maccas. Firstly a noxious fatty smell that can be smelt wafting through the streets a block away, the smell is so strong that it overpowers the already smoggy Parramatta road. Secondly the burger and drink wrapping dumps that appear in the streets and parks on a day to day basis.
    The last think you want is one of these stores in your community and I couldn’t imagine anything worse blighting our beautiful Australian bush.
    Congratulations on your mission thus far (-;

    Reply
  19. Alex

    This is laughable. Our society has become so decadent that we are preoccupied with a so called ’cause’ to ultimately stop a legitimate business from opening a store. Tecoma is showing itself for what it is: A community of white middle class “tree-changers” pretending that their snobbish attitudes are in fact a noble pursuit of the expression of their “democratic rights”. The protestors are even using the ‘language of revolution’ by naming a few of their group that were served with court summons for vandalising McDonalds property as the “Tecoma 8″. Get over yourselves Tecoma. Would you make as much of a protest if some earth mother type decided to open a vege-burger restaurant? I doubt it. I for one would like to see a giant McDonalds engulf your whole narrow minded community and force feed the lot of you with their tasty fat filled burgers until your privileged livers turn to foie gras.

    Reply
    1. Kerry Furnell

      This comment was approved to show what some of the few McDonald’s supporter comments are like. The rest usually resort to language that is unpublishable and, as this site is used by schools as a discussion tool, that unfortunately prevents us from publishing them. Shame really, because it only adds support to our campaign.

      Alex,

      Very interesting that people have been brainwashed to such a degree that they really believe corporations not only have a right to do what they like, but that anyone who objects fits into the usual stereotypes.

      First off, Tecoma is not a middle class town by any stretch of the imagination. It in fact has quite a spread of occupations, backgrounds, income ranges and political leanings. The protesters themselves come from ALL walks of life and have many different views on things: the one thing we all agree on is that McDonald’s is not an appropriate development on that site or for that town.

      Secondly, we didn’t name our people the “Tecoma 8″ – McDonald’s lawyers did. It was then picked up by the judge and the media. We actually created a page in response to show that there were real people behind that number, and more than 8! http://www.burgeroff.org/numbers/

      Thirdly, we didn’t get a court summons for vandalising McDonald’s property. McDonald’s took out what is known as a SLAPP suit: Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation). This allowed them to have an injunction against those who had protested by sitting on the roof of the building or blockaded, but controversially also allowed them to add unnamed people to the injunction. A precedent which has massive repercussions for public protest in Australia and has started a conversation about corporatocracy versus democracy among academics, politicians and the legal system alike (http://www.theage.com.au/comment/corporatocracy-killing-grassroots-democracy-20130731-2qze5.html).

      Lastly, your question would we protest if “some earth mother type decided to open a vege-burger restaurant?”

      If it was a 24 hour drive thru, on a dangerous junction, and didn’t fit in with the built form of that area… quite probably. Difference between the earth-mother veggie-burger restaurant and McDonald’s however is that it would NOT be any of those things. Nor would it be a multinational corporation that strategically targets young mothers and children in their marketing, and therefore be wholly inappropriate opposite a preschool and primary school. Nor would it likely have menu items that were loaded with saturated fat and sugar. Or bright lights on 24 hours a day. Or greatly increase traffic on an already congested junction that our school kids need to cross. Or increase anti-social behaviour. Or increase noise / light / sound / smell pollution in our town.

      In fact, the very business that had been there for over 20 years, Hippie Haven music cafe, was much loved. It sold veggie burgers. And meat burgers. Plus a whole range of food: both healthy & unhealthy. Residents loved to sit there and enjoy a sustainable, organic, free trade coffee on the verandah overlooking the hills. We loved the aboriginal art work inside created by Pitjanjatjara artist Kumantjara Brown and Tasmanian born Max Mansell. We loved it so much we offered to buy the land so that this business, the building and the artwork could be saved. Unfortunately, the previous owner was receiving far over the market value in cash from McDonald’s and refused to sell.

      McDonald’s demolished that and yet the protesters and residents of Tecoma are the one’s called vandals?

      Reply
  20. Rob Hicks

    These greedy corporate giants need to be restrained, after 4 visits to China in the last 12 months KFC and Macdonalds are doing a lot to contribute to the bad health of the Chinese population, the junk food intake is on the rise and these companies spend millions on advertising to attract the younger generation to indulge in bad eating habits. All for nothing more than massive profiteering, they would say they are helping by providing jobs mmmmmmm.

    Reply
    1. Nexus789

      Not just bad health. The supply chain operations of these companies is trashing the last remain forests and open spaces across the planet.

      Reply
  21. Joanna

    KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!
    I was part of a community group who stopped an NBN Co tower going up near our local school at Modanville NSW. The community all need to stick together and say NO.
    GOOD LUCK

    Reply
  22. David Kirkbright

    Keep up the fight, you are all an inspiration to millions of others. It’s about time people stood up to these greedy, capitalist corporations who exploit so many and ruin communities to line their pockets. You keep fighting, work as a group, as a community and you can win this.

    Reply
  23. Rachel

    This is absolutely incredible, you are all an inspiration! It is truly inspiring to see such a determined fight from collective community members vs capitalist corporate power. I remember first hearing about this 2 years ago and I’m honestly amazed and thrilled that you refuse to give up. You are truly proving the strength and good heart of people!!!

    Reply
  24. Joao Grilo

    Inspirational is an understatement!
    Congratulations and thank you for showing the rest of us that yes!, we can stand against these mindless corporations.

    Reply

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