Responding to news reports that more than 100 protesters, including young people, were arrested over the weekend after demonstrating against government inaction on the climate crisis ahead of the coming COP28 summit in Dubai, Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said:
“While it is deeply discouraging to see this kind of outcome after peaceful protests on the climate crisis days before COP28, it is also hugely inspiring to see the creativity, ingenuity and solidarity of the protesters who took to kayaks to oppose climate inaction.
“The large numbers of people who took part in the protest are a testament to the growing calls for urgent action on the climate emergency, including in Australia, where coal reigns supreme amid calls to phase out fossil fuels globally.
“World leaders attending COP28 this week should take note that the mass protest in New South Wales is not an isolated incident but part of a global pushback for change now. People will not stay silent when climate upheaval threatens their futures.
People will not stay silent when climate upheaval threatens their futures.Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze
“Acts of civil disobedience fall under the scope of the rights to freedom of conscience, expression and peaceful assembly. Therefore, sanctions and other restrictions imposed must be provided by law and be necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim. We call on all charges that are disproportionate and unnecessary to be dropped immediately.”
More than 100 people were arrested and charged after thousands blocked the Newcastle coal port’s shipping lanes in the Australian state of New South Wales over the weekend. The New South Wales police said in a statement on Monday that those arrested did not disperse after an authorized permit for the protest expired.
An estimated 3,000 people reportedly took part in the 30-hour weekend blockage, using kayaks to paddle out into the waters off the coast. The event was organized by Rising Tide, which called it the biggest act of civil disobedience against climate inaction in Australia’s history.
The country is one of the top coal exporters in the world and still relies on the source for domestic energy needs.
Governments in Australian states and territories have recently passed increasingly restrictive right to protest laws that have been used to arrest and charge climate and environmental activists.
COP28, the United Nations annual climate conference, will take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December. It will bring together 198 states and parties to address the global threat posed by climate change.
Read Amnesty International’s need-to-know guide about COP28 here.