Protect our right to protest!
By Extinction Rebellion Australia, on 15 April 2022
A snap rally was held in Melbourne to protest the unjust sentencing of NSW climate activists and increasing criminalisation of peaceful protest.
The harsh penalties newly put in place in NSW are yet another example of Australia's authoritarian crackdown on people exercising their democratic rights. If we don't stand up, these new penalties could be just the beginning.
This Monday Andrew George of Fireproof Australia was sentenced to three months in prison after disrupting a rugby match with a red flare - sounding the alarm about floods, fires and smoke. Violet, one of the activists who blocked the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was denied bail for 43 days.
Last month, Max Curmi of Blockade Australia was given a four month prison sentence for climbing a crane and shutting down Port Botany’s biggest terminal. Meanwhile, two brothers are being deported for temporarily blocking roads there.
Last year, Juliet Lamont received a one-month suspended prison sentence, while Sergeio Herbert received a 12-month prison sentence for a protest at Newcastle coal port.
These drastic consequences for direct action are disproportionate and intentionally punitive to the individuals involved. They are intended to deter other activists from making their voices heard in the fight against the climate crisis or any other issue.
Speakers at the rally outside Melbourne’s state library called for others to join us and speak out against this authoritarian overreach - before it's too late.
In acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which the rally was taking place, Catherine (XR Westside, Naarm) said:
“If there’s a group in Australia that knows about NOT having the freedom to do the things that they need to do to protect the things that they love, it’s Indigenous Australians. And if there’s a group in Australia that knows about over-policing, having their freedom taken away under completely unreasonable circumstances, it’s Indigenous Australians.”
Greg from Blockade Australia said:
“All life is at risk, human civilisation is at risk unless we do something, and we do something now.
“My friend Max climbed up one of the large cranes that drops shipping containers in and out (at Port Botany) and he live-streamed for five hours and made it live on Sydney channels 7, 10 and 9 news - and they were talking about the climate change for the first time for a long time on mainstream media.
“Why are we not talking about climate change and climate collapse every night on the news given that it’s a crisis?
“Max’s bail conditions mean he has to stay at an address in New South Wales. He’s not allowed to leave that address unless he’s going to a doctor or checking in with the police 3 times a week and he’s not allowed to talk to any of his friends; except his sister.
Max on a crane at Port Botany
“Treating climate activists worse than the most violent criminals is one of the most shameful ways the state is showing they are scared of us.
“Don’t let them fool you. They’ll say it’ll happen at an election, it’ll happen in 2050. What they’re saying, is - we’re willing to kill you so we can keep making billions."
Greg urged protesters to come to the Sydney Mobilisation Resist Climate Inaction on June 27 to July 2.
“The power to make change is in your hands!”, he said.
Rosie (XR Eastside, Naarm) talked about the shameful mainstream media coverage of the peaceful protest action that led to the arrest of the climate activists.
“During the courageous action that blocked the Sydney Harbour Bridge yesterday, Channel 9 reporters urged police to ‘throw the book at them ’for whatever it is they are protesting about’. On 7 Sunrise, David Koch dismissed as ‘having a bee in her bonnet’ the incredible activist suspended over rail lines, and wondered ‘what would happen if the authorities clipped the rope’.
"The ABC Journalist writing about the disruption to the rugby match, when a brave activist ran onto the sports field, failed to mention why they did it. No mention that they were trying to draw attention to the catastrophic effects of climate heating!"
Anika from Socialist Alternative spoke of the climate disasters around the word and the failure of the NSW government to support victims of climate disasters in Australia. Instead of creating policy to shut down the fossil fuel industry, and putting money into renewable energy solutions, the NSW government have decided to criminalise dissent and criminalise resistance to the terror that is unfolding around us.
“These laws need to be resisted, and any other (similar) laws that any other government tries to put in place”.
“It shouldn’t be criminal to engage in climate activism. What should be criminal is the action of the billionaires who profit from the destruction of the planet and the destruction of human and animal life.“
Mark (XR Westside, Naarm) said that police turned up at activists’ homes to warn them about taking part in the recent Extinction Rebellion JUST STOP IT actions in Melbourne, in an obvious act of intimidation.
Mark said “We will not be intimidated, because we understand that nothing is more important for us to be doing with our lives, than fighting against the collapse of our society.”
Defend the right to protest!
Also see the Guardian podcast The new wave of climate activists and the laws designed to stop them