Mass arrests as climate protesters halt coal train
Mass arrests as climate protesters halt coal train)

Police have arrested 47 people involved in an act of civil disobedience targeting coal trains in the New South Wales Hunter region.

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 16 April, protesters walked through holes in the fence of the rail corridor used by coal trains entering Newcastle’s port. Dozens of people flooded the tracks, and fifteen of them climbed the ladders snaking up the sides of the hulking coal train. They threw a banner down the side of the train: “Survival guide for humanity: NO NEW COAL”.

“It was a really good feeling being on top of the train and being able to look down and see all the support. It was very rousing and empowering”, participant Amanda Musico told Red Flag over the phone.

“I was a bit nervous initially, especially when I was about to be arrested for the first time”, Kara Stewart, another protester, wrote to Red Flag by Messenger. “But I knew that I was doing the right thing.”

Most of those arrested were released after being given court attendance notices, but four were taken away by police.

“It concerns me how much power the fossil fuel industry has over our government, and how anti-protest laws and the police are used to protect the interests of billionaires rather than the community”, said Stewart.

The protest, organised by civil disobedience group Rising Tide, had three demands: immediately cancel all new coal mines and expansions; stop all coal mining and coal exports through Newcastle port by 2030; and transform Newcastle into the world’s largest renewable energy port.

The NSW government will consider eight new coal projects this year. According to advocacy group Lock the Gate, these will generate at least 1.5 billion tonnes of global greenhouse gas emissions. The most destructive project will be Glencore and Yancoal’s Hunter Valley operations project, which will create around 1.2 billion tonnes of emissions.

The demonstrators targeted a train heading for Newcastle because the city’s coal port is the world’s largest. “It’s just devastating”, said Musico, who used to live near the port. “You drive down that road and you see a huge mountain of coal. They say that 1 percent of global emissions actually go out of Newcastle harbour. That’s equal to all the domestic emissions that Australia produces.”

After living in Newcastle, Musico moved to Bulga Forest, north-west of Taree. Her property was devastated by the 2019 bushfires. “After the fires we had a drought that continued. The river nearly stopped flowing. And then after that broke, we had flooding.

“Enlightenment is just a series of disillusionments. The market won’t sort it out. The safeguard [mechanism] is not going to be a drop in the ocean compared to opening new coal mines. It’s just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We just know that it can’t keep on going.”

 PHOTO CREDIT: Rising Tide Australia (Twitter)

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