More than 100 climate activists arrested after two-day blockade of Australia’s largest coal port

cross-posted from WION News

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.

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”.

“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)

Cop City Protesters Tried to Plant Trees. Atlanta Police Beat Them for It.

cross-posted from The Intercept

by Natasha Lennard

Organizers swore off violence, but the cops used their garden tools as an excuse to attack them anyway.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Dozens of protesters began gathering early Monday morning in a small, unremarkable park in southeast Atlanta. By 9 a.m., over 400 people — a coalition of local Atlantans and visiting activists from around the country — had assembled to attend a day of protests dubbed “Block Cop City.” The event was just the latest mass demonstration in over two years of resistance against the construction of a vast police training facility, known as Cop City, over hundreds of acres of Atlanta’s forest land.

Cops reacted to the day of action by attacking a slow-moving, peaceful march with tear gas and rubber bullets, just the latest reminder of why the compound, designed to further militarized counterinsurgency policing, should never be built.

Organizers were clear from the start: The protest activities — as had been agreed on in hourslong meetings in the prior days — would not involve property damage to construction vehicles at the site of the planned police facility. The tactic had been tried before, when a small amount of vandalism during a March day of action led to indiscriminate arrests and overreaching state domestic terrorism charges against 42 activists.

Monday’s participants planned simply to march, carrying banners and giant handmade puppets, to the Cop City construction area in the Weelaunee Forest, where they would plant nearly 100 saplings on cleared forest land.

Soon after the march turned onto a road with almost no traffic on it, lines of cops in riot gear amassed to block demonstrators’ route to the forest. Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area, including an armored urban tank dubbed “the Beast.” As the marchers pushed slowly forward, the police moved in with shields and batons, shooting rubber bullets and launching flash-bang grenades and tear-gas canisters at the tightly packed group. Clouds of tear gas rolled over dozens of nearby, clearly identified journalists, myself included.

The protesters stayed in formation; they turned and marched back to their starting point, with a handful of activists hurriedly planting the tree saplings along the roadside.

Journalist Matt Scott with the Atlanta Community Press Collective moves away from a cloud of tear gas thrown by Georgia law enforcement in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. 'Stop Cop City' activists gathered from across the United States to attend the 'Block Cop City' march to the construction site for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. (Photo by Carlos Berrios Polanco/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Journalists and protesters move away from a cloud of tear gas thrown by Georgia law enforcement personnel in Atlanta on Nov. 13, 2023.

Photo: Carlos Berrios/Sipa USA via AP

“Ready to Plant Trees”

Now deep into its second year of organized, multifaceted resistance, the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Atlanta forest has again and again brought to glaring light the old lie: that police can be trusted to respect civil rights.

“Despite numerous stated commitments from religious leaders and city officials to honor the right to protest, armed riot police terrorized the crowd with tear gas grenades, attack dogs, clubs and ballistic shields,” said the Block Cop City organizers in a statement following the march.

The Cop City project was, of course, not blocked on Monday, but the abolitionist, environmentalist movement once again proved its staying power against aggressive police repression. Since its inception, activists opposing the $90 million police training facility have been attacked by police, mass arrested, and, in the intolerable case of Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, riddled with 57 police bullets and killed.

Protesters face felonies for handing out flyers and fundraising for camping supplies. The government explicitly deemed opposition to Cop City a criminal enterprise when, in September, it announced racketeering charges against 61 activists, most of whom already face state domestic terror charges, for typical social justice activities like information sharing and mutual aid organizing. One such defendant, Indigenous activist Victor Puertas, was handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and remains in detention facing deportation in addition to the egregious criminal charges.

“Now planting shovels are weapons. What’s next? Midnight raids for owners of muck boots?”

Meanwhile, an activist effort to get a public vote on Cop City on the recent November ballot had garnered sufficient signatures from the public — over 100,000 of them — but was obstructed by the city government in a blatant assault on democratic processes.

Following Monday’s demonstration, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum held a press briefing to defend the cops’ use of tear gas and other weapons. He claimed the protesters were “prepared to do harm” and pointed to a line of gardening tools — dibbles specifically — police had taken from the march site. These were, of course, the tools activists were using to plant saplings.

“People were really ready to plant trees,” said an organizer who helped bring 75 oak seedlings, 25 pines, and elderberry cuttings to the event. (She asked to remain anonymous for fear of police harassment.) “First it was terrorism if you had muddy clothes,” Sam, a Texas-based organizer with the Austin Weelaunee Defense Society who asked for anonymity, told me. Police had used mud on the shoes of activists, in a forest, to justify the March arrests for domestic terrorism. “Now planting shovels are weapons. What’s next? Midnight raids for owners of muck boots?”

A sign is seen dropped by a protester after gas was spent during a demonstration in opposition to a new police training center, Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

A sign is discarded by a protester after tear gas was deployed by police during the Block Cop City day of action on Nov. 13, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Photo: Mike Stewart/AP

“People Are Determined”

Despite the blunt, repressive instruments deployed by police, those fighting to defend the forest have never stopped. Instead, they adapted and shifted tactics. None of the activists I spoke to on Monday, many with skin and eyes still burning from tear gas, felt the march was a failure. They are already planning for their next steps.

A campaign, Uncover Cop City, is underway to put public pressure on insurance companies Nationwide and Accident Fund to end their subsidiaries’ liability contracts with the Atlanta Police Foundation, the corporate-backed nonprofit behind Cop City. Without the insurance contracts, Cop City’s construction is dead in the water. Previous direct targeting of companies involved in the project have led several contractors to drop out.

Oregon Police Obsessively Spied on Siskiyou Rising Tide for Years, Even After Pipeline Fight Ended

cross-posted from The Intercept

Internal emails obtained by Siskiyou Rising Tide and Information for Public Use show police treating even the most placid social justice activities as sites of criminal threat.

Protesters opposed to the Jordan Cove Pipeline project in Coos Bay, Ore., stage a sit-in at the office of then-Gov. Kate Brown on Feb. 20, 2020.

Photo: Andrew Selsky/AP Photo

The activists of Siskiyou Rising Tide are not new to being watched. Founded in 2016 under the name Southern Oregon Rising Tide, the direct action climate justice group was a key player in the yearslong battle to stop the Jordan Cove Energy Project, a 229-mile natural gas pipeline that threatened to be the largest single emitter of greenhouse gasses in Oregon.

Alongside a coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups, Siskiyou Rising Tide faced major police counterinsurgency efforts, including aggressive monitoring funded by Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the Canadian fossil fuel company behind the project. But a dense web of interagency and corporate surveillance was unable to curtail the Jordan Cove opposition: In a rare victory for the climate movement, Pembina canceled the project in 2021.

A new trove of internal police emails, however, reveals that the intrusive and overreaching surveillance practices that developed around the pipeline project have remained firmly in place, even years after Pembina pulled out of the area.

Obtained through public records requests by Information for Public Use and Siskiyou Rising Tide and shared exclusively with The Intercept ahead of their publication, the emails show a policing apparatus that treats even the most placid social justice activities — like vigils and Juneteenth celebrations — as sites of criminal threat.

“As the Jordan Cove pipeline was defeated around 2020, Siskiyou Rising Tide pivoted to focusing on housing and racial justice issues, and these records requests were part of an attempt to understand what the surveillance landscape looked like post-Jordan Cove,” the Information for Public Use said in a statement shared with The Intercept.

The emails show that, from 2016 to 2023, the Medford Police Department coordinated heavy-handed police responses to peaceful rallies and protests, tracked activist groups’ social media pages, and consistently treated typical, First Amendment-protected activity as a potential crime worthy of law enforcement scrutiny.

Sam Becker, a member of Information for Public Use, wrote in a Signal message that the Medford Police Department’s overreach included surveilling a Black teenager’s vigil, pushing back against the Oregon Health Authority’s choice to fund a harm reduction nonprofit, and monitoring a reproductive justice organization after receiving a tip from a member of an evangelical anti-abortion group.

Information for Public Use and Siskiyou Rising Tide believe that the surveillance activities revealed in the email trove constitute a violation of both First Amendment protections and an Oregon-specific law, ORS 181A.250, which prohibits law enforcement agencies from collecting and maintaining “information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities” of individuals, groups, or business, unless the police have “reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.”

“Monitoring social media accounts available to the general public does not violate any part of the constitution or any Oregon statute,” wrote Medford City Attorney, Eric B. Mitton, in a statement to The Intercept. “Law enforcement agencies, including the Medford Police Department, actively look at the public social media profiles of organizations and individuals when there is reported or self-evident concern of a public safety interest.”

While some activists involved in Jordan Cove protests had been arrested in the past, the police department emails do not contain evidence of ongoing criminal conduct. Rhetoric about “usual suspects” is scattered throughout the emails, but the activities which they are suspected of carrying out are peaceful protests, mutual aid projects, and protected political speech. The surveilled events are often described as involving a few dozen activists, gathering to express support for social, racial, and reproductive justice, before returning home without incident.

Oregon has long been a hub for far-right, white supremacist organizing, and Medford is located in a firmly conservative county. As is all too common, and indeed unsurprising, antifascist and left-wing organizers take up an outsized amount of law enforcement focus. The obtained emails evidence both the police’s disconcerting commitment to monitoring the left and an embarrassing squandering of city, state, and federal resources toward activities like picking through social media posts about social justice issues.

In one email exchange from June 2020, Medford Police Department patrol lieutenant Darrel J. Graham asked then-Medford Police Department crime analyst Divya Fisher to identify and investigate Siskiyou Rising Tide’s members after the group condemned local law enforcement officers’ treatment of unhoused people during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response, Fisher and other officers combed through social media posts until landing on a Facebook post of one man, Leonard Higgins, who cited the Rising Tide and encouraged people to email the Medford City Council to urge an end to police harassment of unhoused people. The police then ran a background check on the 68-year-old longtime environmental activist.

In the entire email thread, “there is no focus on addressing the complaints against the police, i.e. remedying the wrong being done to unhoused people,” noted the Information for Public Use’s statement. A member of Siskiyou Rising Tide told The Intercept that at the time of that email exchange, the online information was out of date and Higgins was no longer involved with the group.

Israel’s Insidious Narrative About Palestinian Prisoners

Jeremy Scahill

The monitoring of protests and events for racial justice — predominantly after the summer of 2020, when nationwide Black liberation uprisings followed George Floyd’s murder — were particularly egregious in their overreach. The emails show numerous officers across departments dedicating hours of time and research to scrutinize people who attended a vigil organized for Aidan Ellison, a Black teen from nearby Ashland who was shot dead by a middle-aged white man.

Dozens of emails back and forth in late 2020 focus on the vigil and its organizers. One email thread contains an information sheet from the Medford Police Department’s “Tactical Information Unit,” offering a summary of research on the vigil plan. Other emails note that a camera installed by the city the previous summer could be used to watch the vigil, as well as the Facebook feeds of local activists known to the police.

As the vigil for the slain teen began, the cops quipped about the host of the Facebook livestream. “I figured he’d be there,” Jenette Bertocchi of the Ashland Police Department wrote to Medford’s Fisher while tuning in the organizer’s social media feed.

Fisher replied that “it wouldn’t be a party” without the activist in question. (Ashland Police did not respond to a request for comment. Fisher did not respond to The Intercept’s attempts to reach her.)

OREGON, USA - MARCH 28 : More than a hundred anti-fascist activists, Black Bloc, and anarchists are gathered on March 28, 2021 at Salem, Oregonâs State Capitol building to oppose a group of Trump, right-wing, Proud Boy and Qanon supporters who drove to the Capitol, in Oregon, United States. (Photo by John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Police officers stand near the Oregon State Capitol building during opposing demonstrations between antifascist and far-right groups in Salem, Ore., on March 28, 2021.

Photo: John Rudoff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In another multi-agency email thread from 2022, officers discuss the then-upcoming trial of Floyd’s murderer, former cop Derek Chauvin. “As you know, I believe these officers will be acquitted of the murder charges,” wrote Medford Police Sgt. Jason Antley. (In 2012, Antley was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury for shooting and killing a man wielding a knife.)

“This is likely to spark another large scale set of protests,” Antley added and asked his colleague to “dig around on social media to see if anyone is talking about this.” No disruptive protests took place in the area.

Following the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, the police focus turned toward reproductive rights protests. One group, the Rogue Valley Pepper Shakers, a queer-led organization founded in 2020 by young people in the area, was actively monitored for its reproductive justice activism; the group distributes contraception and reproductive health information, shares information about anti-abortion extremists, supports local queer spaces, and promotes harm reduction. According to an email from Medford Police Department’s Antley, the police were alerted to one planned abortion rights protest by Brett White, a member of the Rogue Valley Saltshakers, a far-right anti-abortion group that galvanized the creation of the Pepper Shakers.

“Seeing these emails has proven to us that the police see us as an active threat to our communities, even in the absence of evidence.”

“Seeing these emails has proven to us that the police see us as an active threat to our communities, even in the absence of evidence,” Sam Strong, a member of the Rogue Valley Pepper Shakers, told The Intercept. “The observation and keeping tabs is no shock to us however it’s extremely concerning.”

In some of the most recent email exchanges obtained, police and city officials expand on their surveillance efforts with an attempt to intervene in a radical health care group’s funding. In March, Stabbin’ Wagon, a harm reduction group that distributes free clean syringes and opioid reversal medications like Narcan, was awarded $1.5 million from the Oregon Health Authority to build a peer-respite center: a community-based alternative to the hospitalization model of recovery and mental health treatment.

In one email, the Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun asks a city lobbyist who they “need to contact at the State regarding this grant,” calling it a “disaster waiting to happen.” In another email, Medford Chief of Police Justin Ivens contacted the Oregon Health Authority directly, expressing “concerns” — seemingly an effort to pressure a state agency out of awarding funds to a legitimate, deserving nonprofit. In a 2021 email between the police department’s former crime analyst, Fisher, and other officers, Stabbin’ Wagon’s founder Melissa Jones was named as one of the cops’ “known protest players.”

The specific emails discussing Stabbin’ Wagon’s funds were already reported by Oregon-based independent news service, The Lund Report, in September. Now, they can now be understood in the context of years of police communications committed to suppressing and criminalizing all aspects of liberatory organizing in the local area — including efforts like Stabbin’ Wagon to provide services to simply keep people alive during an ongoing, deadly opioid crisis. Despite police and city meddling, Jones is reportedly on track to receive the Oregon Health Authority grant.

“City staff expressing opinions about a State grant award or asking State officials questions about that State grant award is not uncommon,” wrote Mitton, the city attorney. “It is routine and appropriate for inquiries to be made to public entities like the State of Oregon about how that public entity is allocating its resources.”

Stabbin’ Wagon is not alone in continuing its work despite the knowledge of consistent police surveillance and targeting; the heavily surveilled activists in Medford and beyond expect little else from law enforcement. Strong of the Rogue Valley Pepper Shakers told The Intercept, “I hope the police enjoy watching us serve our community with dignity and autonomy and even learn something from it, but then again — if they had any dignity, they wouldn’t be cops.”

Montgomery County, VA: Two Pipeline Fighters Lock to Another MVP Worksite

cross-posted from Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Early this morning, two pipeline fighters locked themselves to equipment on a Mountain Valley Pipeline worksite in eastern Montgomery County, VA which stopped work for over 5 hours. Nearby, a rally of over 20 people gathered to show support for the protest.

This action came on the anniversary of the start of the Yellow Finch treesits which stopped the destruction of the last stand of trees in the pipeline’s way for over 2 1/2 years! MVP is now over 5 years past their goal in-service date of 2018 and are billions over budget.

One protestor who locked to equipment said: “For me, blocking construction on MVP is joyful militancy. It is feeling the expansive power of disrupting capitalistic extraction and protecting the mountains and waterways that began their formation a billion years ago.

This protester references the book “Joyful Militancy” by Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman. The book explains, “Joyful militancy, then, is a fierce commitment to emergent forms of life in the cracks of Empire, and the values, responsibilities, and questions that sustain them.”

A banner at the site read: “STOP COP CITY NO MVP.” The phrase “Stop Cop City” is a slogan used by a nationwide movement against the construction of a militarized police training facility, dubbed “Cop City,” on 381 acres of urban forest in southeast Atlanta.

The movement to stop MVP parallels the movement to stop cop city. Both projects have been pushed through by politicians who bow down to corporations against the pleas of their constituents. Both projects inflict violence against local communities and worsen the climate crisis.

Both face police repression… Recently, in an unprecedented abuse of legal intimidation tactics, over 60 people have been indicted in a Georgia court on RICO charges for resisting construction of Cop City. More than 40 of those also face domestic terrorism charges.

After being extracted and arrested today, pipeline fighters face $2000 and $3000 bail. At the rally, 1 person was cited for trespassing after moving to where police instructed & 2 people received traffic violations for stopping briefly in a public road to load/unload passengers.