Stop the War Coalition (StWC) is an Australian anti-war group initially formed in Sydney in 2003 and later in Melbourne in 2004 mainly in response to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the general "War on Terror" of which the Australian Government has been a strong ally. This proceeded the biggest protests in Australia's history, where almost one million people were reported to have taken part in demonstrations across the country's towns and cities during the global 15 February protests in 2003 in response to the imminent attack on Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing.
StWC was involved in organising a protest of US President Barack Obama when he was to visit Australia in March 2010. StWC criticized the Obama Administration for "dramatically escalating the war in Afghanistan", citing the authorization of more aerial bombings, and targeted killings in Pakistan than the former US President George W. Bush oversaw during his terms in office. StWC also accuses the Democrat Government of increasing military threats against Iran and of bombing Yemen and condemns both the US and Rudd-Gillard Labor Governments of supporting Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
In the past, StWC was involved in mobilising people against former conservative Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard and his strong support of the military occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to oppose the Rudd-Gillard Government's support of US wars, calling for "the complete withdrawal of military personnel from both countries and for Australian military spending to be replaced by Australian aid to those countries".
StWC protested against the Australian Government's controversial Anti-Terrorism Laws which were revised and passed by Parliament on 6 December 2005. The Bill includes the crime of Sedition which had been effectively defunct since 1960. StWC Sydney told a crowd of 1, 000 protesters a day before the Bill was passed that the laws "would pose a threat to anyone who disagrees with Australian foreign policy, while compromising everybody's civil liberties".
StWC were among many groups campaigning against the incarceration of former Australian Guantanamo Bay detainees, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, who were held without trial by the US, as well as supporting the campaigns for Joseph "Jack" Thomas who was the first Australian charged under the Anti-Terrorism Laws and Dr Mohamed Haneef, an Indian doctor charged over a collapsed terrorism plot in the UK, subsequently having his Australian working visa cancelled by former Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews. StWC accuse the Australian Government of leading "anti-Arabic racism" and "anti-Muslim attacks", which they argue are a pretext for these case examples. After the Cronulla race riots of 2005, StWC convener Pip Hinman likened the political climate to that of the anti-Asian racism during the period of the White Australia Policy, blaming the Government for the riots and accusing them of overshadowing the Right Wing political platform of the former One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, in the 1990s.
StWC also organised the protest against the 2007 Australian visit of former US Vice President Dick Cheney for his role in the Iraq War and occupation. The protest took place on 22 February, during Cheney's three-day visit to discuss Australia's unpopular involvement in Iraq and general commitment to the "War on Terror". Around 200 protesters were refused by police to march through the streets of Sydney, which was under high security for the Vice President's visit.
StWC called on the Rudd Government to cut all ties with Israel during the 2008–09 War on Gaza. Julia Gillard, the Acting Prime Minister, angered Palestinian supporters over her refusal to condemn Israel's bombing campaign in which white phosphorus was used. 5, 000 demonstrators were reported to have marched in Sydney and as many as 12,000 gathered in Melbourne to protest the Israeli attacks on Gaza on 18 January, the same day as Israel announced its ceasefire. StWC and other protest groups condemned the ceasefire as a "sham".
StWC initiated the 8 September protest of the 2007 APEC conference and visit of former US President George W. Bush in Sydney. Figures of protest attendees vary widely from 3, 000 estimated by police to 10, 000 estimated by protest organisers. The summit saw the biggest security operation the country had ever seen, which included 3, 500 police and security guards and 1, 500 Defence Force personnel. The then Prime Minister, John Howard and New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma were widely criticised along with the police for what were seen as "heavy-handed" tactics, such as the arrest without bail of Greg McLeay, a 52-year-old accountant who accidentally strode too close to a motorcade while crossing the road with his 11-year-old son, the erection of a 2.8-metre-high security barrier for public restricted zones of the city, a $600, 000 high-pressure water cannon bought especially for the protest and the removal of many police officers' identification badges during the demonstration.
StWC was involved in the protest of the 2006 G20 summit and visit of former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Melbourne. The demonstration took place on 18 November, where the main rally of approximately 2, 000 people was relatively peaceful but in other parts of the city, a much smaller contingent of around 70 Black Block-styled anarchists called the Arterial Block took part in civil disobedience and fought with police. Early the following year police made raids in Sydney and Melbourne to arrest those they believed to be involved. While StWC were critical of the Arterial Bloc's tactics, they condemned the raids as "an attempt to intimidate anti-war activists in the lead-up to the APEC summit" taking place in Sydney later in 2007.
StWC took part in the 2006 protests against Israel's War on Lebanon. On the annual Hiroshima Day rally on 6 August, while the war was still taking place, Melbourne protesters burned the Israeli flag on the steps of Parliament which drew public criticism from the Victorian Greens, some of whose members were present at the demonstration. StWC argued Israel's incursion into Lebanon was not an anti-terrorism measure but "a war of annihilation" and "expansion".
In 2008 it was revealed through The Age that the Victoria Police had been spying on several activist and community groups in Melbourne, including StWC, with an officer of the controversial Security Intelligence Group, posing as an activist and infiltrating these groups. Mick Armstrong of StWC and Socialist Alternative said "On the one hand you've got police saying 'we will be open and co-operate with you' if you tell them what you are doing ahead of a rally... but then you learn they are still spying on you. It's completely unjustified." The revelation of the police action was widely condemned by activists and commentators.
StWC has no formal membership but is made up of and organised by several groups, organisations and individuals. The following (although not exclusively) have been involved in either directly organising, supporting or working alongside StWC: