XR Vic: disruption to end the destruction
Extinction Rebellion Australia, 10 Dec 2023
Four days of XR rebellion in Melbourne/Naarm disrupting morning and evening peak hour traffic with slow marches and colourful actions. The final day on Saturday brought an all-in mega slow march finishing in a sit-down and a mass display of civil resistance resulting in 75 arrests.
Actions between Wednesday and Saturday told the story of the danger we face from fossil fuels, the government's failure to act on their duty of care, and the intrinsic link between climate breakdown and war. The photo above is by Ari Hatzis.
At the start of the XR Vic December Rebellion, Brad Homewood, a local cement truck driver, and spokesperson for XR said:
“We apologise in advance for the disruption we will cause. We take this action reluctantly in the belief that all other options have been tried. The disruption our protests will cause is just a tiny fraction of the terrible destruction that will occur if we do not win emergency action. We are in the end game: climate breakdown has begun. We are on the edge of runaway global warming and the chances of staying below 1.5 degrees of warming are almost zero. We are risking billions of lives lost and societal collapse. Australia is in the death zone: on our current trajectory, one-third of the country may be uninhabitable by mid-century. We want peace, justice and a liveable planet.”
Gabrielle de Vietri, Greens MP and member for the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, sent a message of support:
“Labor is still opening up new coal and gas project in a climate crisis. When governments fail to take the urgent action to stop catastrophic climate change, despite decades of unequivocal evidence, mass civil disobedience becomes one of the last resorts to pressure the government to change course. I commend the brave people who are putting their bodies on the line to demand that Labor stops burning coal and gas - before it’s too late.”
Tuesday was spent in preparations and a Welcome to Country. Workshops, orientation, and training took place at the Drill Hall at Melbourne's Multicultural Centre from 9am till 9pm.
The first of the Disrupt the City peak traffic disruptions began on Wednesday morning and evening, and caused traffic delays heading into and out of Melbourne’s CBD See the Channel 9 News and the Channel 7 News reports.
In the afternoon, Blinky the giant burning koala and the Red Rebels led a parade to the Coburg office of Peter Khalil, Labor MP. The rally outside the office included speakers from climate emergency campaigns and Palestinian and First Nations speakers, in recognition that war, injustice and climate breakdown have common roots in political systems that have been corrupted by vested interests and do not represent the desire of ordinary people for peace, justice and a liveable planet. Arabic translations of key messages were provided.
Despite a heavy police presence on Wednesday evening and one arrest, XR Vic was back again on the streets of Melbourne, disrupting traffic with slow marches on Thursday morning and evening.
Rebels made a surprise visit to the National Gallery of Victoria to hold the Last Supper for Fossil Fools who have supported the burning of Fossil Fuels in the face of the clear knowledge that doing so risks the future of our world. Our rebels showed Fossil Fools continuing to party even as they begin to become engulfed by the rising waters from a heating world.
In the afternoon rebels joined SOPEC - Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective: Gunditjmara First Nations People’s Ocean defenders for the Whale Song - Stop Seismic Blasting action to highlight their struggle to protect Sea Country.
The Victorian government says it wants to get us off gas, but has so far been silent on opposing proposals for offshore gas exploration in the Otway Basin and other sites in Victoria, including Gippsland.
We must transition away from fossil gas, but seismic blasting exploration for gas is proposed over 55,000 square kilometres of the Otway Basin. Seismic blasting is deadly for marine life and can impact all levels of the food chain from its very foundations, killing zooplankton, more than a kilometre away, to deafening whales.
The action focussed on the demand that a special permit to conduct seismic blasting in the Otway Basin be stopped. The sounds of whale song and seismic blasting were played outside the building which houses the Dept of Environment, Energy and Climate Action.
Lisa Depeller from OCEAN said: “Seismic blasting releases 250 decibels, louder than the Hiroshima bomb, every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for months on end. Blasts cause whales hearing loss, impacting their echolocation navigation means for survival. A deaf whale is a dead whale. The futility of causing destruction and devastation for exploration of new gas fields is untenable. It is nonsensical to cause harm looking for something we don’t want or need. We need to phase out fossil fuels not look for more, so let's protect marine life and stop this seismic blasting.”
Cat Macleod from XR Vic said: “The timing of this is important as NOPSEMA, the offshore regulator, is currently reviewing the proposal by companies to start seismic exploration and reviewing public submissions. This action will bring the song of the whales into the city and is supported by coastal communities already engaged in protecting the waters of Victoria.
“As the climate and ecological crisis intensifies, our governments continue to support new fossil fuel projects. TGS / Schlumberger have submitted a plan to NOPSEMA to 3D seismic blast 55,000 hectares of the Otway Basin. There were 30,785 submissions lodged against this project by the 11 August cut-off date."
Rebels continued to disrupt CBD traffic with another slow march on Friday morning despite a mounting police response. The disruption campaign was escalated by simultaneously staging a roadblock at the Montague St exit of the Westgate Freeway. The police arrived fairly quickly and moved people off the road. Infringement notices were issued but there were no arrests. See the Channel 9 News report.
The Earth Care not Warfare action was held later in the day. People dressed in white walked the city streets stopping for a silent performance at the CBD offices of corporations in the fossil fuel and military arms industries to highlight the links between these businesses and the climate emergency.
The global 'defence' budget stands at $2 trillion plus per annum and rising. That sort of investment, if redirected, would easily pay for a just transition away from fossil fuels rather than making armaments corporations richer. At a time when humanity should be working together to protect our only home from destruction, we are going the other way.
In the evening, a dose of extreme weather, wild winds and thunderstorms, in Melbourne was not enough to deter intrepid protesters, who took to the streets of Melbourne for a joyful act of Disco rebellion.
DISCObedience is an inclusive dance protest, that was first performed in Melbourne 2019 and went on to become a global phenomenon. It aims to make civil disobedience joyful and fun. We dance on the road to creatively bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency, and the fact that our government’s negligence and pandering to the fossil fuel industry is bringing about climate breakdown and mass species extinction. The event was cut short half way by some heavy-handed policing, which saw dancers removed from the road without warning.
Saturday began with the Mothers Rebellion for Climate Justice action outside the National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road in the pouring rain. It was a family friendly, peaceful and healing action that took place under a huge sign with words by Yoko Ono I LOVE YOU EARTH.
Rebels were undaunted by the rain which continued to pour down during an all-in slow march through the streets of Melbourne, featuring the Red Rebels, Sybils, Blinky the Giant Koala and Ms Beehave. The final action was a mass sit-down in the road in front of Flinders Street Station, with people who signed up to risk fines or possibly arrest, in an act of mass civil disobedience to highlight government inaction in the face of climate breakdown, the consequent peril faced by ordnary people and the farce of 28th edition of the UN Climate Conference, COP 28.
The mass sit-down action was reported by Channel 7 News and Channel 10 News, with sympathetic footage by ABC News. The Australian called Extinction Rebellion a 'climate cult' and covered the action with an article titled 'Drenched Extinction Rebellion climate protesters clog Melbourne streets'.
News.com reported that more than 100 demonstrators then sat in Flinders St, at the intersection of Swanson St, and refused to move when directed to by police, resulting in 75 arrests. All 75 were released once they were no longer committing an offence and they had provided their details to police, according to a Victoria Police spokesperson.
The 28th edition of the UN Climate Conference, COP28, was still in progress during the XR Vic December Rebellion actions. COP28 is hosted by the United Arab Emirates (one of the few countries with higher per capita emissions than Australia) and presided over by Sultan al-Jaber the head of the national oil company (which is on course to be the second largest oil producer in the world by 2050).
Before COP28 even began, evidence emerged that the UAE were using their official position as host to leverage new gas and oil deals around the world – including in Australia. As Bill McKibben has pointed out, this is “a timely reminder that there are entire nations that essentially operate as oil companies, with precisely the same attention to morality as Exxon or Shell”. Yesterday, Sultan al-Jaber made the outrageous claim that there is ‘no science’ behind demands for phase-out of fossil fuels.
Jane Morton, a clinical psychologist and spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion said,
“As the world teeters on the brink of runaway warming, we need international collaboration, now more than ever before. However, the COP system is broken, and COP28 is fast becoming a farce. UN officials, who are in a good position to know what is needed, have been calling for mass civil disobedience.
"Christiana Figueres, who led the climate negotiations that resulted in the Paris climate agreement has said: ‘Civil disobedience is not only a moral choice, it is also the most powerful way of shaping world politics’. António Guterres, current Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said, ‘We need disruption to end the destruction. No more baby steps. No more excuses. No more green-washing. No more bottomless greed of the fossil fuel industry and its enablers.”
ABC News coverage ofthe mass disobedience action on Saturday reported Environmental defender Violet Coco's firm agreement that disruptive action is necessary.
"We've tried so many different things to get a livable planet secure for our children and yet our government is approving more coal and gas mines — eight new ones since their term started."
She said that XR would organise more protests in March next year.
"We're really sorry to be causing inconvenience we understand that it can be stressful but the climate breakdown is going to cause so much inconvenience that this will seem like a pleasant party compared to what we're heading for."