Extinction Rebellion protesters and activists who disrupted peak hour traffic along Northbourne Avenue and in Civic today say we have not heard the last of their voices speaking out against political inaction on environmental threats to the climate.
“Australians can see the effects of climate change all around us,” said Emma Roberts, who led today’s protest of between 150 and 200 people riding bikes from Ainslie to London Circuit in Civic where they staged a ‘die-in’ for about half an hour.
Today’s protest capped off a week of action around Australia and the world by Extinction Rebellion protesters.
They say that if the climate emergency is not addressed, the public will continue to see sea levels rise, land drying out, wildfires, water shortages, crop failures, extreme weather, disease, and a higher risk of war and conflict.
Despite similar protests in Melbourne and Sydney seeing a number of protesters arrested, today’s event stayed true to Extinction Rebellion’s mission of holding non-violent demonstrations that disrupt public activities.
Ms Roberts told Region Media that while it has been concerning to see people arrested in other cities, it is actually a very important part of their tactics.
“Arrests around the world will not deter us from drawing attention to the climate emergency,” she said.
“It’s actually very powerful when you see people such as grandmothers, students, young people and professionals being arrested and saying ‘this is what I have to do to draw attention to our government’s inaction on our climate’.
“We’ve been really grateful for the cooperative police response here so far and we are still aiming for no arrests.
“Our politicians continue to let us down, putting profits before lives and livelihoods. We will no longer remain silent by hoping for a miracle,” said Ms Roberts.
Ms Roberts joined Extinction Rebellion (XR) because of its non-violent methods, which had a huge and immediate effect in the UK, where the movement started. The first protest of 14 people resulted in the British government declaring a climate emergency.
“I think it’s incredibly effective to be disruptive,” says Ms Roberts. “What we’ve seen in the last 30 years of protesting is that petitions don’t work and we haven’t achieved the change we need.
“The reason I got involved with XR over other movements is that this one actually gives me a real sense of hope and a sense that we can do what we need.
“I think the fact that XR is explicitly non-violent has meant that more people feel comfortable and able to participate. For this to be successful, we do need every single person, so that is one of the reasons why non-violence is so important.”
Fellow ACT Extinction Rebellion protester Peter Elliott said the peaceful protests allow him to raise his concerns in a constructive way.
“I feel like we’re sleep-walking into a potential disaster and that we have an opportunity to do something about it right now, whereas in 10 years’ time, the actions that we take are going to be too late,” Mr Elliott said.
“I think this raises the whole conversation about climate change. I believe peaceful protests are the way to go by putting ourselves out there on the streets of Canberra.
“It might disrupt people’s morning drive to work, but we’re doing it peacefully and we’re not aiming to be violent in any way. I think it’s just a great way of making the issue really public,” he said.