Nineteen climate change activists shut down ‘The Port of Newcastle’, the world’s largest coal port for a day in an occupation by nineteen students and professionals on 15th September 2018. Defendants in the case were sentenced today in the Newcastle Local Court.
Of the nineteen, eighteen have been sentenced to a twelve-month conditional release order with no conviction (one received a twelve-month community corrections order with a recorded conviction) for their peaceful actions against the dangerous thermal coal mining industry.
It is clear the interests of the coal industry have been put above the interests of the Australian public and that of the majority of the world’s inhabitants.
The Port of Newcastle at Kooragang, on the lands of the Worimi and Awabakal people is the world’s largest thermal coal port. Australia is the world’s largest thermal coal exporter. “The Newcastle 19” entered the Kooragang coal port in an act of non-violent civil disobedience on 15th September 2018.
One of the sentenced, Rilka Laycock-Walsh said: “What we did was safe. How we acted was respectful. Our comrades were The Knitting Nanas. We were vulnerable, locked onto enormous machinery, surrounded by five-story high piles of coal and more than thirty riot and regular police and a rescue officer with one angle grinder to cut 19 off people”.
It is scientifically verified that the burning of thermal coal is one of THE major contributors to human induced climate change. The window of opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is closing rapidly. The actions taken by governments, supranational organisations and the fossil fuel interests that drive this crisis have been woefully inadequate.
Another of the sentenced, Laura Hall-Levetan said: “While ecocide and other crimes covered by UN Human Rights laws are not punishable in this country, 19 people today, mostly in their 20’s, young students and professionals, were sentenced in the criminal justice system for utilizing their human rights and standing up against a corrupt and unjust power, the thermal coal industry”.
Sentenced activist Julia Hengstler said: “The Coal port and its few workers were disrupted for the day. This is nothing compared to the disruption to communities caused by climate change. Renewable energy is economically more viable for the Australian public than coal fired power. Coal workers and their families matter and they deserve an income stream beyond coal”.
A Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) spokesperson said: “We have been punished but we have not been castigated. End Coal activists in Australia and worldwide will continue to undertake non-violent direct action against the coal industry and governments. This will continue until we see viable, sufficient action against climate change”.