Environmental Activists

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Environmental actions in Victoria have taken many forms, from large rallies to mass civil disobedience. A number of environmental direct actions have involved the use of ‘lock-ons’. This is a technique to prevent the removal of the protesters quickly or easily from the protest site, and may involve chains and locks or handcuffs.

Non-violent protest and other forms of environmental activism have played a crucial role in enhancing Australia’s environmental laws, and preventing damage to the environment. In September 2009 the ‘Switch off Hazlewood’ mass protest of about 500 people was held at the Hazlewood power station. Some of the civil disobedience included climbing temporary fencing erected by police, and 22 people were arrested, many for trespass.

Environmental activism has also helped to underline the constitutional right to political communication. In 2017 the High Court of Australia ruled that some offences under the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014 (Tas) – the Tasmanian “anti-protest laws” – were invalid because they disproportionately burdened our rights to freedom of political communication. That is, the rights to protest were unfairly impacted. The High Court’s decision reaffirmed rights to protest and that these rights cannot simply be taken away by legislation.

In forests, activists have formed human blockades, used tall ‘tripods’ and ‘monopoles’, a huge range of ‘lock-on’ devices, ‘dragons’, tree-sits and cabling which aim to slow or stop the logging of forest or bushland areas. Successful blockades, such as at Riley’s Ridge in the Otways (2000), used tree-sits suspended by cables which were attached from tree to tree, preventing the trees from being felled without risking the tree-sitter’s life. Tarzan swing style escapes enabled the protesters to escape arrest and hold the blockade. This was the first time blockaders successfully stopped a working coupe and prevented further logging indefinitely. The coupe is now inside the proposed Otways National Park.

‘Tripods’ (which were pioneered in Australia and are now used around the world) have been used to obstruct roads to prevent motorway development as well as logging. Forest protesters have also used tripods and cabling to do suspended tree-sits, to out-reach a crane and prevent protestor removal. Erecting a long single, central pole from a tripod is a ‘mono-pole’, which ensures vehicles cannot pass between the tripod’s legs and provides additional height. Mono-poles have also been erected on excavators and bulldozers, supported with cables.

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