By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
If you were to ask a climate activist how they feel about Australia’s current handling of the climate crisis, the answer would likely be that they are dissatisfied.
Or so it seems that way given a group of protesters took to the streets of Brisbane’s CBD last week to show their disapproval of the nation’s response to the global crisis, taking to their bikes and riding as slowly as necessary in order to cause as maximum traffic disruption.
The protest took place on the morning of 21 September 2020, during which members of the group Extinction Rebellion congregated in Kurilpa Park in the city’s south, then intentionally hindered their bicycle movement as much as possible, causing major delays and peak-hour mayhem to Brisbane commuters.
Following the ride, the group of about 50 cyclists gathered at King George Square, passing the Queensland parliament, where they continued their rally on social issue.
Dubbed “The Cycle Against Social Collapse”, the demonstration sought to draw attention to the climate and ecological crisis, along with one of its dire outcomes – worldwide social collapse.
“Everyday people must be given the power to decide how we respond to this emerging disaster because politicians are corrupt and have failed us,” a statement on the group’s Facebook page read.
“We are headed for complete annihilation. The amount of warming we are on track for, will literally mean the death of billions of people.
“Scientists say that at 4 or 5 degrees of warming, the earth could sustain a billion people.
“Our government could push us to 7 degrees … Show up and don’t let them get away with it.”
Police liaisons were present at the protest, communicating between police and activists.
Meanwhile, in order to ensure COVID-safety, protesters were required to wear masks and use hand sanitiser, while bikes were to be ridden 1.5m apart.
As part of their previous protests, Extinction Rebellion have glued themselves to the road, attached lock on devices to their bodies, and even parked themselves on major bridges, reducing traffic to near-standstill.
Extinction Rebellion Ramping Up Protesting and Disruptions Following Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions
Speaking of the rally, leader of the protest, Hannah Doole, said the group would “ramp up” protesting activity in the aftermath of COVID-19, which forced them to lay low.
“It may be antagonistic, and it may be more disruptive than people like but that is going to be nothing compared to wars over the loss of food,” Ms Doole said.
“We’re going to have to keep disrupting business-as-usual if we are to get any action.”
According to Ms Doole, the aim of the demonstration was to call for “an emergency assembly which puts decision making power in the hands of the people”.
What is Extinction Rebellion?
Extinction Rebellion – referred to as XR for short – is a protesting body, launched in 2018, that wants governments to declare a “climate and ecological emergency” and take immediate action as a response to addressing climate change.
The group describes itself as an international “non-violent civil disobedience activist movement”.
Since its launch, Extinction Rebellion has expanded globally, with organisers saying it now has groups willing to initiate action in dozens of countries.
The group’s logo is an hourglass inside a circle, which is designed to represent time running out for many species.
Indeed, the protesting body alerts, “Our climate is changing faster than scientists predicted and the stakes are high. Biodiversity loss. Crop failure. Social and ecological collapse. Mass extinction.”
It forewarns that, “We are running out of time, and our Government has failed to act,” encouraging that citizens “have a moral duty to rebel – whatever our politics”.
The right to the freedom of gathering and rallying to voice views on societal issues is a distinguishing feature of liberal democracy.
In fact, for many people, protesting is immensely significant, offering citizens an avenue to push for legal and social transformation.
Across the nation, the right to protest peacefully is encouraged, however this is on the basis of cooperation between protesters and the law.
One such legality that protesters must abide by is to not cause an obstruction to traffic, unless there is a reasonable excuse for doing so.
In NSW, this law is outlined in section 6 of the Summary Offences Act 1988.
Section 6 states that a person is not allowed to, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), wilfully prevent, in any manner, the free passage of a person, vehicle or vessel in a public place.
If a person does not adhere to this law and obstructs traffic during a protest, they can face a maximum penalty of $440.