covid detour to central queensland
i spent the first covid lockdown of 2020 in melbourne (march/april/may). after being disappointed that the 2020 subvertisers’ international week of action was cancelled, and i didn’t get to paint another big video advertising screen.
as soon as covid travel restrictions were relaxed at the start of june, i came up to see my daughters in northern new south wales. by july victoria was kicking off again with a second wave of covid, so there was no sense going back there — instead i headed into queensland in early august, just before queensland closed it’s borders to most of nsw, bound for the blockade of the proposed adani coal mine.
the action plan when i went up to camp was all about supporting the wangan and jagalingou people (the ancestral custodians of the land threatened by adani’s carmichael mine) in their newest campaign standing our ground. plans for a 100-strong presence at the mine site were scuppered at the last minute when covid restrictions reduced public gatherings from 100 to 30 (after a small outbreak in a brisbane youth detention center).
the wangan and jagalingou people successfully blockaded the main road into the carmichael mine site from monday to friday, forcing all vechicles to take a time consuming detour. the state responded by bringing in 50 police to order the ancestral custodians off their land.
after that i was waiting around to see what wangan and jagalingou’s next move would be, and hoping i could throw my support behind them in whatever way they wanted, but as wangan and jagalingou weren’t calling for the physical presence of allies, it seemed we had to get back to our own anti-coal work (as wangan and jagalingou had been telling us they wanted us to continue).
so i decided to do the most disruptive thing that i could, walk into adani’s port facility at abbot point and lock onto the conveyors, stopping the loading of coal ships for some hours. i went in on the night of the 27th of september, arriving in the early hours of the 28th of september.
it was funny doing media for FLAC (frontline action on coal, the group with the most to do with the anti-adani blockade camp), knowing they were going to do all the media stuff i normally object to (talking to for-profit media companies, sending out media releases, etc.). i got around my in-principle objection to speaking/dealing with for-profit media/advertising system by saying: “well i’m just talking to my good friends at FLAC, to not do so would be rude” lol. this is one of the results:
i was saying before the interview that i didn’t want to make a big deal out being a father because that’s not really relevant, i cared about the future of this planet before having offspring etc… but then i went into the interview and talked about it repeatedly, lol.
the walk in was 10-15km, carrying the rather awkward lock-on/love-on device on my shoulders through various terrains, so by the time i got to the port facility at around 2:30am i was pretty tired (not helped by the fact i stayed up too late the previous nights, hanging with all the quality people at camp that i would soon be parting ways with, whoops). things got a little complicated as i approached the conveyor and saw a ute with flashing lights and workers about. after freezing and being confused about what to do for what a second, i took cover in a nearby bush (which happened to be rather prickly), thinking i had surely been seen. it turned out i hadn’t been seen, so i stayed in the bush for a while, dozing off periodically only to be woken up by prickles as my body relaxed into them. i wanted to wait until the workers left so that i could lock-on casually and have time to take and send selfies as the FLAC media team requested. i had to try and peer through the shrubs i was hiding in, not being able to stick my head out of the bushes to have a good look as there was a “day-maker” (very bright spotlight) pointed directly at my little shrubbery.
eventually i became more and more brazen with sticking my head out of the shrubbery, and consequently at around 4am, i was half-spotted by a worker who happened to be looking in my direction as i stuck my head out. i knew he’d seen something and would be coming over to investigate, so i pulled back into my prickly shrubbery, put one arm into my lock-on device, then jumped up and made a run straight to the conveyor. the clearly shocked worker said “don’t do anything stupid!”, so i immediately pulled the emergency stop cord on the coal exporting machine and crawled under the first conveyor, then pulled the emergency stop on the second conveyor. i then sent a message out that i was on, and locked on to the underside of the second conveyor, not having the time or the necessary composure to take and send a selfie of myself in position.
port safety procedures mean that the conveyors cannot be restarted while i am locked on in there, even though i was not locked to any moving parts of the conveyor. the security and police then rolled in over the sunrise hours, they made brief and half-arsed attempts to convince me to release myself, before the cut team (normal bowen police with angle grinders) came in with their trailer and cut me off sometime between 7am and 8am.
according to the conservative press, the port didn’t start up again 9am, meaning the 24-hour port was shut down for 5 hours.
although i didn’t get a selfie of myself locked on, thankfully the mining industry published the what i presume was the most unflattering photo taken by the bunch of mining gawkers who assembled on the scene with their phones out:
i changed my lock-on position before security arrived so i could have a bit of a lie-down and it was a great choice, i even drifted off as the police were alternatively cutting at my lock-on and pouring fire-retardant down my arm — you see i was fully covered in a fire blanket and had ear muffs on, it was all rather relaxing. i was only woken up by the weight of my arms pulling on the wire looped around my wrists, otherwise i might have been charged with illegal camping as well, lol.
i copped 4 charges: trespass, failing to fuck off when told to fuck off, interfering with a port, and using a “DaNGerROuS AttAcHmeNT dEvICe” (the queensland governments new stupid law that tries to paint lock-on devices as if they are some sort of dangerous terrorist device, when really they are only legislating further against lock-on devices because they are a super effective tool of non-violent civil disobedience)
i have had my first court date in bowen magistrates already, on the 27th of october. i plead not guilty to all charges and will run some kind of legal defence. i have to go back on the 15th of december to confirm my not guilty plea, then i will get a hearing date, presumably sometime in early 2021
adani has pulled it’s toxic name off everything it owns (the port, railway and mine), they have no financiers, insurers are dropping them too. if we keep up the pressure, or turn it up, the mine will be stopped as it needs to be. get to the frontline if you can: https://frontlineaction.org/blockade-adani/