Battle for Beeliar

Today the people in Western Australia will make a judgement whether they want Barnett and his Liberal government to continue. All signs point to no, but people are waiting hearts in mouths -will the result bring what country needs?

The last three months have seen a pitched battle at the Beeliar wetlands, in the south of Perth, near Fremantle… as the Liberal government have gone full force into bulldozing the urban bushland, and wetlands for a contentious road project that is expected to blow the states budget out more than $8 billion. As with the East West link before, and in tandem with the West Connex protests in Sydney, it is the community that has stepped up to say no to another unwanted road project. To delay work, to monitor the fauna management, to do everything in their power to stand in the way – of the bulldozing of nesting trees, destroying endangered cockatoo habitat… to the trashing of birthing, burial and sacred sites.

Barnett pushed forward with the land clearing three months from an election despite the ALP saying they would not support the project if elected. The money and resources thrown towards policing this project has been enormous. Police are all enticed with double time to be here. It’s all razor wire and fences and un-muzzled dogs and horses…The police violence has been consistent and brutal. Assaults have been a daily practice, becoming normalised. Pressure holds, twisted wrists, bruises, bodies under horses. All this whilst witnessing the daily sick making sound of trees ripped from earth, discarded bodies. Artefacts lost to the soil. Stories and lines broken. 

Direct action has been tactically very difficult – the police resources are immense, the terrain really challenging. Yet 175 people have tried. 175 civil disobedience arrests from a small community in less than three months. There is a remarkable sentiment, that, even though their actions may not stop work for long, and sometimes not at all, that so many are willing, so many want to – simply because they want to have tried everything they humanly can. Everyone has stepped out of their comfort zone – up at 4am, scared people who have never done this, readying to face dogs and razor wire. Shy people pushing fences down and throwing themselves past horses to just get an hour of reprieve for this ecosystem. And the women. So many strong women. A generation of young women who have sat in trees for weeks, locked their soft teenage bodies to concrete and steel and laid in the way of the machines…arms in pipe, thumbs in locks, bruised and sore, police talking them down, telling them their actions are worth nothing…when they are worth everything. Their resistance is everything. They are building and learning the skills to take us forward. They are political, shiningly smart and throwing themselves into this as if their future relies on it. They will be the ones fighting for a safe climate, whilst arm chair baby boomers watch on and make snide comments about millennials.

Though in fact there are also many baby boomers on the ground here too – the resistance to this project goes back thirty years – in fact there is amazing footage of the original protests at Farrington Road … incredibly the police and contractor behaviour hasn’t got much better in 2017.

For more background and context of the story of recklessness, greed and mismanagement that goes back decades we could do no better than this extraordinary article that unpacks the whole sordid story.

As with happens with all similar campaigns around the country, the community that emerges from the furnace of nonviolent direct action is extraordinary. There are hundreds, thousands involved in this campaign – every day people, musicians, and families and professors, and business owners and students, first nations warriors, and artists and teachers and lawyers and doctors.

If the government swings the right way today, the place will be loved back to life…not the same, but beautifully defiant and hardy nonetheless, and the community that has been built on the way will keep growing.

All our respect and love to those who have been involved in the Battle of Beeliar.

*Nicola from CounterAct has been on the ground supporting the community campaign with training, legal support and mentoring. If you’d like to support her work, its crowd funded. Chip in here. She will be supporting post election with debriefing and legal follow up to document the human rights abuses and hold police accountability.