Spring Rebellion disrupts Melbourne

October 17, 2019
An Extinction Rebellion protest in Melbourne on October 7.
An Extinction Rebellion protest in Melbourne on October 7. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

About 5000 people participated in a week of disruptive actions organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups in Melbourne. The protests, which kicked off on October 7, were part of XR’s international Week of Rebellion. 

The focal point of Melbourne’s Spring Rebellion — as the week was dubbed — was a protest camp in Carlton Gardens, which served as a base of operations. As well as acting as an organising space, the camp held people’s assemblies and workshops on issues such as non-violent direct action, and served up food for participants.

Despite having no official permit from the local council, participants stayed in the camp each night to ensure it remained open throughout the week.

The Spring Rebellion kicked off with an opening ceremony on the evening of October 7, with 1000 protesters marching from the camp to Flinders Street Station.

A variety of actions were organised throughout the week, including: a disruptive “Civil Discobedience”, in which protesters danced down some of the city’s main streets; a mass bike ride; a student-organised swarm protest that saw small groups target institutions such as the Department of Human Affairs and RMIT University, which has ties to weapons manufacturers; and several hours-long occupations of busy intersections, such as King Street Bridge.

Debriefs with participants were held after most actions to discuss what worked and what didn’t.

The diversity of actions was reflective of the level of organisation that was invested into the week by different local XR groups. Notably, several regional XR groups, such as XR Gippsland, played an active role in the Week of Rebellion. Another significant aspect was the presence of many new activists, some of whom took the whole week off work to attend the various protests.

People’s Assemblies were held at the protest camp during the week. XR said the aim of these assemblies was to provide a participatory, democratic forum that could serve as a “way for a group of people to discuss issues or make decisions collectively, so that all voices are heard and valued equally and no one person or group is able to dominate the process.”

The assemblies involved open discussions on topics such as tactics, non-violent direct action, climate justice and XR’s principles. First Nations activists addressed two assemblies on climate justice to talk about how XR activists could support Aboriginal sovereignty.

While providing a forum for discussion, the assemblies did not provide much opportunity for decision-making, particularly on XR’s political direction. 

Melbourne's Spring Rebellion was a demonstration of XR's organisational strength and has laid the basis for even bigger actions in the future.

[Jacob Andrewartha is a climate activist involved in XR Moreland and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]

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