Extinction Rebellion WA (XR) hit the streets with a Festival of Love and Rage on November 28 with a message to the Western Australia Premier: act on the climate emergency like you dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labor Premier Mark McGowan has ignored pressure to open WA’s borders, applying a strict quarantine policy. There have been no cases of community spread in several months.
By contrast, the government’s response to the climate crisis has been lacking in science.
Since lifting the state’s moratorium on fracking in 2018, McGowan has given the go-ahead to several huge shale and tight gas projects throughout the wheat belt in the iconic Kimberly region and offshore in the Browse Basin.
The WA Conservation Council believes the basin project alone would create three to four times the level of pollution than the Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland is expected to.
About 200 XR activists took to the streets with a vibrant and creative protest, that included several bands, singers, dancers, clowns and some creative acts of disobedience — including a mad hatter’s tea party in the street outside Chevron’s headquarters.
XR brought the love, but it was the WA Police who brought the rage: its response to the protesters, which it outnumbered by 2 to 1, was over the top.
Ten people were arrested.
As protesters assembled in King’s Park, police surrounded them on horses, bikes, motorbikes, cars and they even bought buses — mobile police cells to lock up potential arrestees.
XR’s “tea party” was completely destroyed when the police overturned the table, throwing two grandparent protesters to the ground. One was dragged across the ground by the arms and the other was left bruised and in shock at her brutal mistreatment.
Four other protesters, who had attempted to glue themselves to the road, were violently dragged off, leaving the soles of their feet bleeding.
Given that XR had negotiated with police beforehand, meaning that they knew how the protest was going to unfold, their violence was even more reprehensible. They know that XR subscribes to peaceful non-violent resistance, and protesters were prepared to be arrested.
However, the police brutality did not dampen XR’s activists’ enthusiasm. They have vowed to ramp up the climate emergency protests leading up to next year’s state election with a focus on opposing the federal and state governments’ plans for a gas-led recovery, amid large-scale deforestation, which will only increase dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
[Petrina Harley is a member of Extinction Rebellion in WA.]