Protesters lock onto coal loaders, arrested on tracks as climate change protests continue

A 96-year-old WWII veteran locked himself onto the coal rail line at Tighes Hill on Saturday as part of a  protest that organisers described as a “nationwide cry for urgent action on fossil-fuel-driven climate change”.

Dozens were arrested and 26 were charged by police during their Operation Turpin response, including the 96-year-old veteran, Bill Ryan, and a 72-year-old woman.

Police Superintendent Brett Greentree said that despite being warned, “some demonstrators continued to set out to break the law and put themselves and others at risk”.  

All charged have been bailed to appear at Newcastle Local Court on Thursday, October 4.

An industry spokesperson said the impact on coal movements was still being ascertained.

Mr Ryan said after he was released from Newcastle Police Station that he was protesting on behalf of those younger than himself.

“I will be gone by the time climate change is in full swing, but I am taking action for my grandchildren, great grandchildren and all future generations,” Mr Ryan said.

“I don’t want them to inherit an earth made uninhabitable by climate change. I want them to have a future.”

Frontline Action on Coal has been holding a week-long camp in the Hunter training activists and organising protests.

Although the police had promised a major presence in the port on Saturday, the protesters were not deterred.

Frontline Action said 50 people locked themselves onto the coal loaders at NCIG on Kooragang Island on Saturday, while 20 Knitting Nanas blocked road access to the terminal before police moved them on.

At the Carrington Coal Terminal, protesters held a mock trial in the name of the People’s Climate Court, with witnesses representing the public, health professionals, farms and endangered animals.

“The defendants are charged with crimes against humanity due to their ongoing destruction to the health of humanity and the Earth’s environment,” Frontline Action said.

“See whether Judge Justice rules in favour of big business or the local people in what is certain to be a thrilling trial!”

Frontline Action criticised the government for its lack of climate change policy.

“Our state and federal governments are swarming with lobbyists and we’ve now had two federal leaders rolled by the coal industry over energy policy, so it’s not surprising that Australia has absolutely no plan for dealing with climate change,” Frontline Action said.

“The fact that the prime minister has just appointed a former minerals council executive as his chief of staff shows beyond a doubt that we are completely at the mercy of the fossil fuel industry.”

The police said officers from various squads including marine command, the riot squad, police rescue and mounted police were deployed on Saturday “ to ensure peaceful and lawful demonstrations”.

 "While police respect the right of individuals and groups to protest, we have a responsibility to the community and local businesses to ensure they can go about their normal activities without being impacted or put at risk,” Superintendent Greentree said.

“Unfortunately, despite the warnings, some demonstrators continued to set out to break the law and put themselves and others at risk.”

 Apart from the two arrests on the railway line, the other arrests were on Kooragang Island.

Charges included entering enclosed lands, hindering the working of mining equipment, interfering with the conduct of a business, and being armed with intent to commit and indictable offence.

All charged have been bailed to appear at Newcastle Local Court on Thursday, October 4.