Protests and arrests continue this week as climate action advocates again take to streets around the world as part of Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) ‘international rebellion’.
More than a hundred protesters in Sydney dressed as bees Tuesday morning and pretended to die in Hyde Park, with six arrested, while protesters in Brisbane blockaded peak hour traffic on George Street and police negotiated with a man suspended ten metres from the Story Bridge.
‘For people under 40, our retirement plan will be to somehow survive and not starve to death or die of heat stroke before we reach old age,’ XR South East Queensland spokeswoman Laura Harland said in a media release.
Members of XR SEQ said they occupied Brisbane’s Victoria Bridge and casino on Monday, while a woman called Alison ‘made an extremely courageous stand as a mother from Toowoomba’ by getting arrested in Queens Park, the group’s press release said.
A ‘privilege’ to choose arrest, XR activist says
XR SEQ said police had arrested more than 160 people protesting in Brisbane since April.
‘We acknowledge it is a privilege to be able to choose to be arrested and we are choosing to weaponise this privilege,’ Ms Harland’s sister Izzy Harland said in another press release.
Meanwhile, NSW police said they arrested 30 protesters in Sydney’s CBD on Monday, while the XR Sydney group said on Facebook there were more than 50 arrests.
‘One man had to be taken to hospital for a hand injury, and another woman had to be taken for wrist injuries, both from the police,’ the group said.
‘People can only be held for 6 hours by law and that time is nearly going over,’ the social media post read, ‘police are giving severe bail conditions’.
Police said alleged offences ranged from obstructing traffic to disobeying a reasonable direction.
NSW police assistant chief says protesters can expect ‘full force’ of law
‘Anyone who chooses to flout the rules and cause trouble should expect to feel the full force of the law,’ Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing APM said in a press release.
Assistant Commissioner Willing said public safety was the number one priority for police during any protest activity.
‘While police respect the right of individuals and groups to protest, we have a responsibility to the community and local businesses to ensure they can go about their normal activities without being impacted on or put at risk,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, despite the warnings issued by local police and our colleagues from across the country, this group continues to set out to break the law and put themselves and others at risk.
‘We are aware that this particular group of protesters intend to cause significant disruption to the community, and any future activity of this nature will not be tolerated by NSW Police.’
Climate crisis is not a ‘view’ says XR
Protesters are demanding zero greenhouse gas emissions and for all energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.
They are also calling for nature to receive legal rights and for an end to land clearing.
Their list of demands includes truth in climate change reporting and replacement of ‘oppressive government structures with systems of self-management and true participatory democracy’.
Earlier this week, XR SEQ spokeswoman Izzy Harland, also a representative for the Northern Rivers branch, said members were left with no other choice but to engage in disruptive and sacrificial acts of civil disobedience if they wanted a chance at averting a sixth mass extinction already underway.
‘Right now, most of NSW is in drought and ten Australian towns are out of water,’ Ms Harland said in a media release.
‘The fact that we are facing the climate crisis is not a “view’’, it is science and Extinction Rebellion is backed by hundreds of Australian scientists’, she said.
Byron and Ballina threatened by climate change
The group said it was urging ‘everyone’ to consult climate change science and used the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as an example.
‘Just one staggering figure from the report was that a historical 100-year flood event will happen annually by 2050 even in the most optimistic scenario,’ XR SEQ said in its press release.
A recent report from the Climate Council referred to Coastal Risk Australia data showing much of Byron Bay, including Belongil, and Ballina’s CBD would be flooded by 2100 if current climate change trends continued.
‘For decades, people have tried to demand meaningful action on the climate crisis though petitions, letters and non-disruptive marches,’ Ms Harland said, ‘yet the systems set up by those in power have failed to protect us from the corporate interests driving ecocide’.
Turnbull blames coalition climate ‘denialists’ for government inaction
In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews questioned XR actions, asking whether or not they were the most effective methods for spreading awareness, while Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last week called for protesters receiving Newstart to have their payments cancelled.
By Sunday morning, Mr Dutton had the support of both the employment minister and the minister for family and social services.
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull then spoke to The Australian, saying his biggest regret in terms of leading the country was a failure to reform energy policy.
Mr Turnbull said the coalition was influenced by an inner group of climate denialists.