Newcastle anti-coal protesters say weekend arrests a symbol of campaign success

DIRECT ACTION: Bill Ryan, 96, and Susie Gold, 75, chained to the tracks leading to the Carrington Coal Terminal on Saturday morning. Protest organisers say that when "injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty".
DIRECT ACTION: Bill Ryan, 96, and Susie Gold, 75, chained to the tracks leading to the Carrington Coal Terminal on Saturday morning. Protest organisers say that when "injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty".

 CLIMATE activists declared their Newcastle week of action a success after they disrupted the coal chain on Saturday by having protesters lock themselves to the railway tracks and to one of the giant coal-moving machines on Kooragang Island.

The railway duo were 96-year-old WWII Kokoda veteran Bill Ryan and 75-year-old grandmother of two, Susie Gold.

As he did in 2014 when he was arrested at one of the Maules Creek protests, Mr Ryan said he was doing it for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

They were among at least 26 people charged over Saturday’s protests, all of whom were bailed to appear in Newcastle Local Court on October 4.

Organisers – the Queensland-based Frontline Action on Coal and Newcastle Justice Uprising – said almost 200 people had taken part in Saturday’s protests.

As well as having people chain themselves to machinery to temporarily stop the movement of coal through the port, the protesters held a mock trial outside the Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) Carrington Coal Terminal in which the federal government and the coal industry were charged in a “climate court” with crimes against humanity and the environment. 

Some 17 doctors, nurses and other health professionals held their own protest on Kooragang on Saturday, under the banner Health on the Frontline.

As was the case last week when protester Micah Weeks stood on top of a coal train locomotive near Hexham, the industry criticised the activists’ methods.

“PWCS respects the right to free speech and expressing opinion but believes it should be done legally, without trespassing and interfering with operations,” chief executive Hennie du Plooy said on Sunday. Police made similar criticisms.

On Kooragang, dozens of people gained entry to the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group stockpiles despite a large police presence. One man hung high in the air from the end of one of the giant stacker/reclaimers, while others locked themselves onto conveyor belts and draped a large banner reading: “Enough is enough”.

Various Knitting Nanas sat on chairs blocking the road to the NCIG offices before they were moved on.

Organisers said they were “committed to non-violent direct action against the fossil fuel industry”.

 “The sacrifice of those arrested is emblematic of the demand for drastic action on climate change felt by the vast majority of Australians,” Frontline Action said.

“Our politicians are letting coal barons destroy our life source. We must hold them to account, stand up for what we believe in and know to be right.”

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