Extinction Rebellion WA: ‘The government is not playing by any rules so why should we?’

August 22, 2019
Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protest in Perth on August 15. Photo: Simon Stevens

Speaking to Green Left Weekly about the actions of those who entered Western Australia’s state parliament on August 15, Extinction Rebellion activist and Socialist Alliance member Petrina Harley said: “Despite the media’s dramatic language of us ‘storming’ and ‘flooding’ parliament house — ironic they should use terms relating to climate change — we all entered the public gallery by simply walking through security and politely being shown up the stairs.

“We then sat quietly and listened to parliamentarians.”

At noon, when the time for action arrived, “16 of us stood as one, banners unfurled,” Harley said.

“Our spokesperson apologised for the interruption but asked that the ministers stay and listen to a short statement, as they had refused to respond to a letter we had previously sent them. There was an audible sigh of collective condescension from the ministers assembled, before they all upped and vanished.

“In unison we made our statement anyway, which was being livestreamed to the rally outside.

“We dropped our ‘heartfelt’ messages — literally messages written on little felt hearts — over the railings onto MP’s desks and then broke into song, declaring rebellion to the tune of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’.

“Parliament House security then asked us to leave, otherwise we would be escorted out and charged with trespass. We told them we were fine with that.”

Following negotiations, some protesters agreed to leave, others accepted formal move-on notices and the remainder said police would have to physically carry them out.

“The category of arrestables has become important for raising awareness,” Harley told GLW. “The government is not playing by any rules so why should we?

“For me, getting arrested is about rejecting the notion that government is representing the people.

“They are prepared to risk our lives and our kids’ futures for the short-term goal of profits and their allegiance to the fossil fuel industry.

“It’s a rejection of our broken system of government and it’s a call to others to rise up and resist; to show people that mass action is the way to shift power from a pro-business government to people prepared to put community before profit.

“On this occasion, I took a move-on notice but the fight continues.

“My motivation is concern for the future of my children. I want a government of the people, in place of the current coalition of profit-driven capitalists.”

Another XRWA activist, Andy Grice, was arrested, removed from the premises and then “unarrested” after a move-on notice was inserted into his pocket while handcuffed.

“I have tried working within the existing framework of politics” Grice told GLW. “But the climate is changing faster than the capitalist political system is prepared to acknowledge.

“I am frustrated that it can ignore citizens so easily, and I think an increasing show of civil disruption might force the public to think about the urgency of the climate catastrophe we face and force politicians to act — or catalyse an uprising of the people.

“XR openly calls for non-violent disruption to daily life to draw attention to the disruption that climate change will cause if we don’t act now to save the climate.”

Grice commented that XRWA is well organised, with the benefit of international experience that is readily adaptable to Australian conditions. Within a short time it has been able to organise effective, well-supported protest actions.

“Being ‘arrestable’ shows a willingness to make a sacrifice but arrest can be a nasty experience — alienating, lonesome, scary and with unpredictable outcomes.

“Within XR it is relatively OK. There are affinity groups that deal with all the external issues, supply assistance at every stage and even help with recovery afterwards.

“I can protest, get arrested and know that I have back-up at all times.”

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