Extinction Rebellion protesters take to Perth CBD, blocking St George’s Terrace


October 11, 2019 18:56:44

Dozens of arrests have been made after some of the busiest roads in Perth’s CBD were thrown into chaos this morning by climate activists as part of a nationwide Extinction Rebellion demonstration.

Key points:

  • Extinction Rebellion has held protests in all major Australian cities this week
  • The protesters are calling for more to be done in the fight against climate change
  • They disrupted traffic and got arrested to raise attention to the cause

A group of about 400 men, women and children from Extinction Rebellion marched along William Street through the heart of the city during the morning peak hour.

The protesters gathered near Elizabeth Quay about 8:30am and made their way up to St Georges Terrace, stopping traffic on the Esplanade as they went.

In anticipation police closed St Georges Terrace from Howard Street to King Street, with three lanes of traffic redirected onto the narrow one-way shopping street.

The group staged a yoga session in the middle of St Georges Terrace before continuing to Hay Street.

A sit-in protest was then staged, with some protesters linking their arms with plastic pipes and chains.

One man dressed as a pirate glued his feet to a wooden pedestal.

The large police presence which had been lining the route and following the march all morning then began to close in.

There was about one police officer for every four protestors.

The intersection was taped off and the group warned if they did not leave the road they were breaking the law and may be arrested.

Police announced those instructions over a loudspeaker and began informing protesters one by one, including the elderly and wheelchair bound.

While the crowd then thinned about 60 remained in the intersection as an “act of civil disobedience”.

Police used power tools to cut the protesters’ plastic pipe arm locks, and a solvent was needed to unglue the pirate’s feet.

The activists were then marched or carried to police vans and taken away from the area, with about 65 arrests made in total.

Some members of the public voiced frustrations at the disruption, others said they sympathised with the cause, while many were simply bemused by the spectacle.

Organiser Angela Wellman said the demonstration should send a strong message about the need for greater action on climate change.

“People are getting out of their comfort zones, doing things they never thought they were going to do,” she said.

“Getting arrested is a serious thing but they are willing and it is necessary.

Former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who was among those to address the crowd, said he was “delighted” with the turnout.

“This is peaceful, it is non-violent, but people are very determined,” he said.

But the attendance was smaller than some organisers had been hoping for, with the crowd falling short of the 1000-plus they had targeted.

‘It’s our sworn duty to protect free speech’: Police

Superintendent Omar Chahal said those arrested would likely face charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing police, but for the most part people were respectful during the protest.

“I think they were responsible in what they did. I think they got their message across that they wanted to portray to the Government about climate change,” he said.

“Obviously they felt they had to do that via civil disobedience at one point, but I think towards police they were respectful and responsible.

“It’s our job not to inhibit free speech. It’s our sworn duty to protect free speech, balanced against community need.”

But Superintendent Chahal conceded the massive police presence was a drain on resources.

“I’m not going to lie, we used significant resources today to police it to ensure it was safe, for the protesters themselves, the community and the police officers involved,” he said.

“That does draw resources from elsewhere, when we draw those resources from elsewhere the community is not receiving a certain level or standard of service.

“[But] in 25 years of policing I haven’t seen too many operations that went as seamlessly as today’s operation.”






First posted

October 11, 2019 16:23:08

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