Marchers risk arrest under South Australia's draconian anti-protest laws

Marchers risk arrest under South Australia's draconian anti-protest laws

Extinction Rebellion Australia, 20 May 2024

A joint action this month against South Australia's anti-protest laws ended with a sit-down by 100 people in Adelaide's CBD. Eight rebels were removed from the road by police and issued with fines. In an earlier action, mothers, caregivers and allies gathered to demand real action on the climate crisis.

The May 16th Protect Protest Rally called on the state government to repeal the controversial SA anti-protest law changes. The rally took place on the first anniversary of the introduction of the law changes and was organised by a diverse coalition of groups including, Amnesty International Australia, Australian Democracy Network, The Wilderness Society, Human Rights Law Centre, Students for Palestine Adelaide, and Extinction Rebellion South Australia. Photo above by Peter Barnes.

Last year's changes to the Summary Offences Act saw the maximum penalty for obstructing a public place escalate from $750 to $50,000 or 3 months imprisonment.

Protect Protest Rally at Parliament House
Protect Protest Rally at Parliament House, Adelaide. Photo by Gemma Weedall.

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Gemma Weedall said: “Protest is vital to democracy, and in the midst of a climate emergency it is more important than ever – we need disruption to end the destruction.

“History has vindicated many acts of civil disobedience including the global suffrage movement, American Civil Rights Movement, Builders Labourers Federation Green Bans, and Vietnam Moratorium marches that blocked Adelaide intersections.”

Sit down protest at the intersection of Pulteney and Rundle Mall in Adelaide, SA
Sit down protest at the intersection of Pulteney and Rundle Mall in Adelaide, SA. Photo by Gemma Weedall

The action launched an ongoing campaign to review and repeal the law changes, which the organisers say are having a chilling and repressive effect on peaceful protest.

“The South Australian community deserves laws that are the result of deliberation and consultation, not policy on the run, so we’re calling on the SA Parliament to go back to the drawing board and reconsider these undemocratic laws” Ms Weedall said.

Protesters wearing 'Votes for Women' sashes
A reminder of the acts of civil disobedience by the global suffrage movement. Photo by Peter Barnes.

Earlier in the same week, a colourful gathering in Rundle Mall highlighted the urgent need to protect our children, grandchildren, and future generations from climate risk.

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson and grandmother Cate Mettam said: “We have a clear message for our politicians - don’t hang our kids out to dry! Low rain forecasts are very concerning as the country is already dry. Forest areas in Western Australia are dying and extreme weather events are starting to bite.

“All over the world, the climate crisis is worsening, bringing melting glaciers, flooding, wildfires, extreme temperatures, drought, mass migration, food shortages and rising prices. ”

Mothers, caregivers and allies rally in Adelaide's Rundle Mall
Mothers, caregivers and allies rally in Adelaide's Rundle Mall. Photo by Gemma Weedall

“Grandmothers, mothers and caregivers are our first line of defence in a crisis. They are the first to think of realistic and practical actions for keeping more vulnerable people safe, fed, sheltered and positive. Every carer plans for the future and we look to our leaders to understand the risks, bolster resources and improve safety.”

The action followed the release of Too Hot to Handl, the latest report by Australian Security Leaders Climate Group, headed by retired Admiral Chris Barrie. The report has a Duty of Care focus and states that ‘The fundamental duty of any government is “to protect the people” and thus fully assessing climate risk in order to avoid or mitigate it must be a priority.’

Protesters in Adelaide's Rundle Mall
Protesters in Adelaide's Rundle Mall. Photo by Gemma Weedall

Meanwhile, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has 116 new coal, oil and gas projects awaiting approval. Promised tightening of our Environment Protection Laws has been shelved, and the government has vowed to support gas production until 2050, making it more likely that these projects will be approved and will release an extra 1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.

Mothers and carers everywhere are uniting to call on our leaders to understand the risks and take urgent action!

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