Climate protestors took to the waters of Newcastle Port on Saturday morning for a 32-hour rally orchestrated by the climate change activist organization Rising Tide. This protest had been prearranged, and the group had been granted permission by the police to occupy the waters until 4 pm on Sunday.
Activists aimed to stop the departure of coal exports from the city and bring attention to their demands including stopping approval for new coal projects, a 75% tax on profits from fossil fuel exports, and allocated funds for addressing climate loss and damage.
However, on Monday morning, law enforcement disclosed that they had apprehended 109 individuals, comprising 49 men, 60 women, and five minors, for remaining in the water beyond the 4 pm deadline.
Organisations including the NSW Council for Civil Liberties are calling on New South Wales Police to drop these charges.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Lydia Shelly said they were concerned the charges sent a worrying message.
“New South Wales already has a reputation for being a state that restricts and curtails the right to protest unnecessarily,” she said.
“It is shameful that NSW Police have arrested and charged Legal Observers at the recent climate change protest.
“It risks the State of NSW, which is already home to some of the most draconian anti-protest laws in the country, becoming further tarnished in the eyes of those who value transparency, accountability, and civil liberties.”
Shelly said the charges needed to be immediately withdrawn, adding that it was “not in the public interest” to proceed.
“If the charges are not withdrawn, it risks sending a dangerous message to the public that NSW police do not want their interactions or conduct with peaceful protestors monitored by independent organisations,” she said.
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