More than one thousand people successfully blockaded the worldâ€™s largest coal port in Newcastle on July 13, bringing coal trains to a halt for most of the day. The mass blockade was part of the Camp for Climate Action, held in Newcastle between July 10-15.
Climate Camp blockades coal port
The protest was livened up by contingents of â€œradical cheerleadersâ€, drummers, hip hop artists, puppeteers, banners and chants. Although an attempt to enter the train line en masse failed, the rally gathered along the fences, supporting groups of protesters who made it onto the tracks. Some locked themselves to the tracks or a stationary coal train while others hung banners or shovelled out coal from the top of the train. Around 50 people were arrested throughout the day, although most only received fines.
One banner reading â€œWarning: Climate Change Ahead. Reduce Emissions Nowâ€ was hung from the back of the train.
Speakers at the rally told of the need for climate change action at a time when the federal government refuses to act.
â€œRudd has done what is easy for climate change [by signing Kyoto] but his whole climate change strategy will unravel if he doesnâ€™t address coalâ€, said Holly Creenaune from Friends of the Earth.
Graham Brown, an ex-coal miner from Newcastle, emphasised the importance of a pro-worker transition to renewable industries.
â€œNot everyone follows the coal industry line. This is the start of a revolution against the coal industryâ€™s destructive practices. We have to show the industry that there is another way where we can have jobs for everyone in the transition to clean industryâ€, he explained.
The following day, July 14, a rally of 150 people against NSW treasurer Michael Costa was held outside his Newcastle office.
On the same day, five people chained themselves to the Kooragang coal loader, stopping work at the site for 90 minutes, according to the July 15 Newcastle Herald.
Climate Camp proved to be a great success, bringing together people concerned about climate change from around Australia, including many from the local region. Around 500 participants camped in Wickham Park over the six days.
Plenaries and workshops during the camp dealt with the climate crisis and strategies to grow the environment movement.
Simon Cunich, a Resistance member in Newcastle and member of the Climate Camp organising collective, told Green Left Weekly â€œWe sent a strong message that we wonâ€™t tolerate any government inaction on climate change. But this is only the beginning, we have to reach out into all communities, bringing together all of those people committed to a sustainable futureâ€.
On the final day of the camp there was discussion about the way forward for the campaign. There was overwhelming support for another climate camp next year. Other ideas included a national day of action against the coal industry and protests in response to the government-commissioned Garnaut review on climate change.
From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #759 23 July 2008.