Nonviolent direct action shuts down coal port

Peaceful protest on coal line in Newcastle

Peaceful protest on coal line in Newcastle

Last weekend Jarrod and I were both able to attend the Climate Action Camp in Newcastle, the highlight of which was shutting down the railway feeding the world’s largest coal port for a few hours (unconfirmed: over 24 hours as the police were apparently still searching for people overnight!)

Jarrod played an awesome facilitation role in some difficult spokescouncil meetings, helping diverse people work together for a common cause. Considering not everyone was even fully committed to tactical nonviolence (ie. a few thought that physical self defence was OK in a NV action), he and others facilitating did great work.

Jarrod was also a key part of the Parents & Kids Action Team, that enabled a whole bunch of kids to participate in a very safe and empowering way.

Justin joined a Newcastle-based action team / affinity group based around people from Rising Tide, the local anti-coal port NV action crew, and was one of 7 from his team and about 50 people overall who illegally walked onto the railway line (the police had helpfully stopped the trains already, so it was perfectly safe!).

All but about 2-3 people were given $400 fines for traffic offences (riding on a coal train without a valid ticket!), rather than the expected charge of trespassing, although Justin and about 20 others were first given a free ride to the Newcastle police station and about 30 mins in a holding cell. My understanding is that only one person was charged with a violent offence (assaulting an officer while resisting arrest), and that is almost certain to be dropped. This is impressive discipline in the face some a small number of police behaving very aggressively (most were fine).

Media Coverage:

The Camp for Climate Action website has lots of stories, photos and videos.

You may have the coverage on TV (actually it would be good to know if it went national on commercial stations, so if you saw outside NSW it on 7, 9 or 10 news, or in local papers, let me know). If not, there is good coverage at the Tele (although no mention that the ‘expected trouble’ from protestors never eventuated – you have to read that information in the absence of reports of violence!) and SMH.

… and a nice photo of yours truly in the Gulf Times!

Lastly, a 10 min edited video is at Engage Media.

Quick reflection:

It was a great action, my fears were thankfully not fulfilled, I felt really calm and positive as I went under the fence and on to the tracks/train, I felt centred the whole time I was ‘inside’ from going through the fence to being released from the station about 3 hours later, I sang Taize chants to remain calm, prayerful and mindful much of the time, I had a great crew and feel bonded esp. to 2 affinity groupmates I was arrested beside, the role of key support crews (legals, media, first aid, human rights monitors, food couriers, etc) cannot be underestimated in terms of making arrestees feel safe and supported, affinity groups really work, that particular arrestable action was not something I would recommend to everyone because there was always a danger of police violence (one person right behind me went to hospital after being thrown from the train onto the tracks but she’s okay), I still suspect a pre-arranged quiet walk-on and arrest is ideal but the police didn’t allow that, NVC/CARA communications skills and philosophy from PeBA workshops do actually help when you’re there, and I’d definitely do it again under the right circumstances.

I hope to write a fuller reflection in the coming days.