Anti-coal protesters continue direct action across Hunter

A Blockade Australia activist hangs above the rail line in one of many unauthorised protests last week.

LAST Friday, on day four of a “sustained campaign of disruption at the Port of Newcastle”, anti-coal activist group Blockade Australia promised to make “no compromises”.

“Ongoing extraction equals ongoing disruption” a media statement from the group read.

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“Activists representing the network called Blockade Australia have obstructed multiple train lines, in an effort to highlight the Australian political and economic system’s complicity in perpetuating climate violence,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

That same morning, a 28-year-old activist scaled three rail lines to reveal a banner that read: ‘No compromises with catastrophe. #directactiongetsthegoods’.

“I’m here with a sound mind and a heavy heart to help spread the word, and be an example of direct action,” stated the activist, identified only as Toni.

“They are still digging [for coal], and that’s why we need to be loud.

“And this is about as loud as we can get.”

The night prior two more activists, one aged in her seventies, launched a protest by jumping aboard a coal train.

“I’m not a spring chicken, as you might have noticed, I’m 77 years old,” said one protester, Trish.

“This is not the sort of thing I want to do – climbing a coal train on a cold night – but I’m just doing it because… what else?

“The government doesn’t listen when we write letters.

“There’s no other way, we’ve got to make it clear we mean business.”

Earlier in the week, a 73-year-old held a coal train at a standstill for multiple hours near the New England highway bridge.

That same evening, a protester hung from a bi-pod over a rail bridge, obstructing operations for about two hours.

He held a banner reading ‘collective resistance equals collective existence’.

Many of the protesters live streamed their actions on social media, with some sharing messages of solidarity with Palestine.

“In their eyes, resisting Australia’s political and economic system equates to taking a stand against the militarism and extractivism of global geopolitics,” a Blockade Australia statement read.

“Australia, Israel, and the USA are part of the same financial, military and ideological system of exploitation that maintains power through extraction and military force.”

NSW Police arrested multiple protesters at various locations across the Hunter throughout the week.

On Tuesday 25 June 2024, officers from Newcastle City Police District received notification that a number of people had entered the rail corridor and were causing obstruction to trains at Kooragang Island.

Police attended the site and arrested two women aged 67 and 59.

The same day, officers from Hunter Valley Police District received reports that a number of people had entered the rail corridor off the New England Highway at Hermitage Road, Belford.

A 64-year-old woman was arrested.

The following day at about 8.30am, emergency services were called to a rail corridor near Rix’s Creek Lane, Rix’s Creek, following reports of an unauthorised protest.

A 33-year-old Victorian woman was arrested at the scene.

Later a 73-year-old South Australian woman was arrested at the scene of an unauthorised protest at Tarro.

The arrests continued, with a 21-year-old Sydney man charged following an unauthorised protest near the Ironbark Creek Bridge, Hexham at about 3.15am last Thursday.

Then, at about 11.20pm on Thursday 27 June 2024, police received notification that a number of people had allegedly entered the rail corridor and were causing obstruction to trains at Allandale, about twelve kilometres north of Cessnock.

Two women were arrested, a 25-year-old from Victoria and a 77-year-old from South Australia.

Another Victorian woman was arrested on Friday morning after an incident on the rail corridor at Branxton.

That night the chaos continued in Newcastle.

Around 6.45pm police were called to the rail corridor at Sandgate following reports a number of people had allegedly entered the rail corridor and stopped an eastbound train.

Police arrested a 59-year-old man who had allegedly climbed into an open carriage.

On Saturday a 24-year-old woman was arrested in Branxton for causing obstruction to trains.

The action continued into Sunday, with police called to the rail corridor at Lochinvar following reports a woman had allegedly entered the rail corridor and was causing an obstruction to trains.

Officers attached to Hunter Valley Police District, with assistance from Police Rescue, attended the site and arrested a 40-year-old woman.

Blockade Australia activists appear undeterred by the spate of arrests, with protest action continuing on Monday morning.

Seventeen-year-old protester Aahana suspended herself 40 metres from a bipod over Singleton Bridge, blocking a key point in the Hunter Valley coal network.

“At seventeen years old, I was able to immobilise key infrastructure at an economic bottleneck and take action at the foundation of Australia’s political power,” she said.

“Blocked capital can not be ignored.”

Her banner read: ‘No Liberation Without Resistance’.

This was Blockade Australia’s thirteenth action in the Hunter since last week.

The protests have had a significant impact on commuters, with buses replacing Hunter Line trains on multiple occasions for lengthy windows due to safety risks.


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