More than 100 climate activists, including five children and a 97-year-old reverend, have been arrested, said the police, after a two-day blockade of one of the world’s largest coal ports in Australia, on Monday (Nov 27).
The protest group Rising Tide, which organised the blockade claims that the 30-hour blockade of the shipping lane in Port of Newcastle over the weekend prevented over half a million tonnes of coal from leaving the country.
What did the climate protesters do?
Hundreds of activists took to the Newcastle port’s shipping lane on Australia’s east coast swimming or using kayaks in protest of the government’s climate inaction and imploring them to end the country’s long reliance on fossil fuel exports.
?? #NoNewCoal approvals by our Labor Governments
?? To #MakePollutersPay for climate damage and fund the community and industrial transition
?? End coal exports in Newcastle by 2020 pic.twitter.com/uEuRV6Bs3F
— RisingTideAustralia (@RisingTideAus) November 27, 2023
Canberra is the world’s second-biggest coal exporter and heavily relies on fossil fuels for its own electricity needs. The government is also reportedly in the midst of planning a string of new coal mines, oil fields and gas projects.
The port in Australia’s east is around 170 kilometres away from Sydney and is said to be the country’s most important terminal for coal shipments.
Around 3,000 people from across the country took part in the 30-hour blockade, reported BBC, the permission for which was granted by the authorities. However, police boats reportedly started closing in after the deadline had crossed and the crowds of activists refused to leave the water.
‘Oldest Australian ever arrested and charged’
The New South Wales Police said five juveniles had also been arrested but did not give their ages. As per BBC, the five children were subsequently released.
The NSW police, in a statement, said that they have charged 104 people, on Monday. Among those arrested and charged was 97-year-old Uniting Church reverend Alan Stuart who as per Rising Tide’s post on X, is the “OLDEST PERSON EVER ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN AUSTRALIA”.
How to arrest a 97yo climate protector at the #PeoplesBlockade? Very carefully and to a heroes welcome! If charged, Reverend Alan Stuart will be the oldest person ever charged in Australia ?
“I think it is my duty to do what I can and to stand up for what I know is right.” pic.twitter.com/mZLunitdRa
— RisingTideAustralia (@RisingTideAus) November 26, 2023
“I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations because I don’t want to leave them a world full of increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters,” said Stuart, in a statement prior to his arrest.
He added, “I am so sorry that they will have to suffer the consequences of our inaction. So, I think it is my duty to do what I can and to stand up for what I know is right.”
The group also called the protest the “biggest act of civil disobedience for climate in Australia’s history”.
“I’m doing this as a student because the decision makers in this country have consistently ignored young people’s voices,” said 17-year-old Anjali Beams who travelled from Adelaide and also remained past the 30-hour deadline.
“The Newcastle coal port is the largest coal port in the world, and I will not be complicit in letting my future get sold away by the fossil fuel industry for their profit,” she added.
(With inputs from agencies)