Occupy Justice: Rachel Williams and Ann De Marco

This is the first in a series of posts celebrating the women fighting for positive change in our world, starting with some of the women from Occupy Justice Malta – an activist group formed in response to corruption in Maltese government.

RACHEL WILLIAMS

Rachel Williams, Occupy Justice. Women in Action, The Creative Atom

Rachel is a 47 year old mother and MBA graduate who loves animals, books and sport and never thought she’d become an activist.

1) When would you say your activism really began? Why?

It began the very second that a prominent PL spokesman – Tony Zarb – called the ladies protesting in front of Castille (the Prime Minister’s office) whores. I was going to join them later in the day, but upon hearing those words – which were often used to describe [the late] Daphne Caruana Galizia – I turned to my family and said ‘I need to be there, in Valletta, RIGHT NOW!’ That jolted me out of the stupor I had fallen into upon hearing about Daphne’s assassination.  I never looked back

2) It’s a constant uphill struggle: what keeps you going? 

The more time passes, the more my anger at all of the government’s attempts to eradicate her memory, the continuous attacks on her family to this day, the daily (sometimes twice) clearing of the memorial, the constant hounding by government lackeys of activists – giving up is not an option.

The Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff and Minister of Tourism (the latter being the only European minister to be mentioned in the Panama Papers) have dragged this country’s name through the mud and I will not stand by idly. I also take strength from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family – and their dignity.

3) What do you do to unplug/de-stress?

I try to laugh. Sometimes I find myself taking a step back – to refuel if you like – to come back stronger than ever.

4) what have you learned/taken away (personally) from being so involved in activism?

That being up against a government means that people see you as fair game and will go to any lengths to stop you. I’ve been slapped with a libel suit, been called in for a fake hit and run, been accused of pushing an old man (with a government member of Parliament shouting in my face saying he saw me do it ) – all evidence showed it was impossible for that to have happened, and magically the government media pulled off all accusations across its party media. Activism separates the wheat from the chaff. 

5) what has been the most testing or difficult aspect of being an activist?

As I said above, the constant false accusations are tough. I’ve been followed. Friends – or former friends – have pretended not to know me anymore because it’s too dangerous to be associated with me

6) what is it you’re fighting in Malta?

Corruption. The refusal of the government to open an independent public inquiry as to whether Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination could have been prevented. The rights of a grieving family. 

7) do you feel like you’re making a difference?

Yes. If I weren’t, I would be left alone. 

ANN DE MARCO

Ann De Marco, Occupy Justice.
Women in Action, The Creative Atom

Ann is a 59 year-old retired banker and currently works part time in administration. She is an animal lover and slave to 4 cats, loves scuba diving, travel (particularly travelling combined with scuba diving!), nature, theatre, film and TV. She just wants a peaceful life but found herself a member of #occupyjustice because there can be no peace in a corruption ridden country.

1) When would you say your activism really began? Why?

That is the easiest question to answer – It began in October 2017, because of the outrage and horror I felt when Daphne was assassinated.

2) You replace the flowers at the Great Siege Memorial every day without fail: when did that start, why do you feel you have to keep doing it, and what have been some of the best and worst aspects of that experience?

It started when the Justice minister gave the order that the memorial should be cleared every day.  That would be around 9th September 2018, when the monument was boarded up for ‘restoration’. 

From that day, the tributes were cleared every day without fail, at least once by the Cleansing Department on the orders of the ministry, plus very often other times during the day.  I feel we have to keep it going for a number of reasons. 

Firstly it’s a symbol of the fight for justice.  Second, it’s a daily reminder that Daphne has not been forgotten, despite all the attempts of the government to erase her memory. 

And finally, I’m just stubborn and refuse to give in and let the evil corrupt bastards win.  The best thing about it is that it keeps the flame of protest and the memory of Daphne going, and that makes me happy.  And also the appreciation of the people who care, and of course Daphne’s family’s appreciation as well. 

And it’s great to see tourists stopping to read the messages and to feel their support when we speak to them.  The worst thing is the abuse thrown at me every so often.  And the fact that now I feel responsible for its upkeep so I have to make sure that it’s done every day, even if I don’t do it myself.  Others usually step in on weekends or if I’m away.

3) Why do you think so many Maltese are so resistant to a memorial at that site?

The Maltese don’t give a crap about the monument, the resistance is on the government’s instructions, due to the propaganda they release to their followers.  Also because so many of them hated Daphne, and can’t bear to see her remembered right there in their face

4) what have you learned/taken away (personally) from being so involved in activism?

That women get things done – although I knew that already.  That a group of like-minded women are strong and tough and support each other constantly.  That there are people who are principled and strong.  That being in a group of such people (women) means that we step in to help each other and give each other the strength to go on.

5) What do you do to unplug/de-stress? 

Watch TV series, go diving, and go on holiday, either to places where you can breathe clean air & see green open spaces, or cities where you can go to theatre and concerts and breathe in culture.

6) what has been the most testing or difficult aspect of being an activist?

The abuse, obviously.  The thought that I might be targeted by the government and/or its followers.  The fear that we are wasting our time, and that nothing will change. And on a personal note, the fact that it takes up a lot of time, preparing posters for the memorial, keeping the social media sites going, meeting journalists – answering questions like these…

7) when the going is getting tough, what inspires you to keep going?

Daphne.  I think of how she kept going, without the support that I have, on her own, fearlessly.  And of course, the support of the rest of us.

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