Thousands of wetlands protectors participated in a peaceful protest on January 12 at the site of the state government’s Roe 8 highway project, a $450 million extension to Stock Road across the Beeliar Wetlands.
Work on the project was delayed as hundreds toppled the temporary fence surrounding the exclusion zone around the culturally and environmentally significant site. They continued through to encircle an inner compound where a front-end loader for clearing more bush was being kept.
At this point, two protectors locked onto the device and another performed a tree sit above.
Thirty one people were arrested that day, including an elderly Aboriginal man who was slammed to the ground by police.
Several people, including Socialist Alliance Fremantle councillor Sam Wainwright and Melville councillor Tim Barling, were arrested the day before after they locked on to a gate.
This was the first time in the campaign against Roe 8 that such numbers have been successfully mobilised. It demonstrates the speed and depth to which the issue is galvanising local community support.
Other recent developments in the campaign include the High Court’s December 16 decision to turn down an application to appeal against the project and WA Labor’s announcement that it will scrap the project if elected at the March 11 state election.
Labor has said it will redirect funds currently allocated to Roe 8 to four other road projects. As yet, there is no clear environmental or financial case for these projects and many are concerned the projects have been devised primarily to compensate Leighton Holdings, the company contracted to build Roe 8.
The campaign against Roe 8 is very broad and includes Nyoongar activists, wharfies, parents, residents, doctors and farmers, each with their own overlapping reasons for wanting to stop this highway from going ahead.
Wainwright, who was charged with trespassing and disobeying a move-on order, told the Fremantle Herald shortly after his arrest that he was confident he had done the right thing and was buoyed by support from onlookers and social media.
“What is clear is that the [Colin] Barnett government has no moral compass”, Wainwright said on January 12, commenting on the heavy handedness of the police who pushed around peaceful protesters, threatening them with dogs and horses.
It is estimated to cost more than $40,000 a day to police the site. That, plus growing community opposition means the political cost to the state government is mounting: it has to decide whether building this road and fulfilling its contract to Leighton is worth the price of losing power after March 11.
Dramatic moment as crowd takes down fence in a amazing action of community civil disobedience #SaveBeeliarWetlands #RethinkTheLink #noroe8Posted by Friends of the Earth Perth on Wednesday, January 11, 2017