As the Paris talks wind to a close, with the expected depressingly weak outcomes seeming likely, people across Australia stepped up in a massive day of coordinated nonviolent direct action, to show the government and corporations that where they fail to act, the people will lead.
And the action we supported in the centre of Melbourne’s wealthy business district brought Collins Street to a halt for nearly four hours – causing traffic gridlock, as two teams of activists chained themselves to “connect the dots” and blockade the front entrances of both BHP Billiton and Westpac Bank – two examples of our broken system.
Between these two sites, a web of resistance was woven – with a beautiful tangle of yarn, rope and ribbons with pledges on them for our future. People placed themselves, connected to each other and linked into the web, blocking the road with joy and music and chanting for many hours as we heard from speakers most impacted by climate change. The day kicked off with Uncle Robbie Thorpe, we heard from local Brazilian people talking about the disaster back in their own country, as well as a statement from Uncle Kevin Buzzacott – Arabunna man whose land has been destroyed by uranium mining – this was read out by Meg, from Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance. People in support of West Papua, those working in support of refugees, and a powerful statement from Jacynta, from Samoa, of the Pacific Climate Warriors, as well as contributions from deadly young Seed activist, Zac all gave context to the huge issues facing us.
Remarkably this ABC article actually did reflect the diversity of messages of the action – as activists sought to expand the conversation from climate change – to climate justice… talking about the interconnected issues of fossil fuel extraction leading not just to climate change, but fuelling wars, and creating refugees and displacing first nations people, and the broken financial system which props all these corporations up. BHP Billiton was highlighted for not only their toxic legacy in Australia – with coal and uranium, but one of the worst mining disasters in the world.
A group of people also locked onto Westpac – as the ‘best of a bad bunch’ the worlds most ‘sustainable’ bank still invests in fossil fuels and people are calling for this to stop. Their 2 degrees announcement today, whilst a small step forward, still doesn’t rule out coal funding, and would still consign island nations to being submerged.
As our brave friends were cut off from their chains at BHP, the police attention finally turned to the road, and more than 40 people stood their ground, being finally dragged away one by one, many chanting joyfully, as police cleared the road – inappropriately bringing a tram up close to the protestors to intimidate them into moving on.
The action was also featured in The Age, Channel Seven, Nine and Ten news. Direct Action Melbourne photos here, and our photos here. A great collection of video from the most excellent No Frontiers Media.
As Australia was listed third last – 56th out of 58 in terms of climate change action, beating only Saudi Arabia and Kazakstan, and after having contributed to trying to remove draft text from COP21 that supports indigenous rights, it seems clear that we can not expect politicians to do the right thing. That is why people took matters into their own hands on International Human Rights Day, this Thursday 10th December 2015. In 2016 the pressure will only continue to build. As if our lives depended on it.