Blockades are actions that directly get in the way of – block – something from happening.
Some examples are:
- blockading a logging truck;
- blockading the construction of a coal mine or gas hub;
- blockading bulldozers.
Blockades are a very common and ancient method for people to intervene directly in an injustice occurring.
Blockades have both symbolic and very practical aspects.
They take many forms, from a line of people linking arms, sitting down, or standingThe right to take action in court or to be heard or represented in a case. More up, tripods and chains, setting up permanent camps to block access.
In history, people have stood in front of tanks, bulldozers, cars and people in order to intervene directly.
Blockades can occur around buildings, mine sites, construction site, or across roads.
The legal aspects of a blockade are determined by its context, the place blockaded and the length of time the blockade lasts.
Police may choose to tolerate a blockade, for instance, if it is only for a short period of time.
Some common charges include besetting, obstruction, and trespass.
Blockades and other actions in the forests of Victoria have taken many forms, from physical human blockades to the use of ‘tall tripods’ (which were pioneered in Australia and are now used around the world) and a huge range of ‘lock-on’ devices which aim to slow the logging or clearing of forest or bushland areas.
There are a range of particular legal issues that are directly relevant for forest activists.
The best source of legal information and legal support for forest activists in Victoria is the organisation Lawyers For Forests.
Lawyers for Forests is an association of legal professionals working to promote the conservation and better management of Australia’s remaining native forests.
You can read their guide for Forest Activists in Victoria here.
And their website is: www.lawyersforforests.asn.au
Critical Mass is a global event on the last Friday of each month that involves huge numbers of cyclists riding home together in major cities around the world.
More of a ‘happening’ than a standard political protest, Critical Mass claims to create a celebratory, festival of sustainable transport and act out a vision of car-free urban transport systems. It also seeks to redefine the road space, challenging the definition of legitimate use of public space.
Critical Mass rides used to take place in most capital cities in Australia and often involve many hundreds of cyclists who highlight cycling as sustainable transport, educate car drivers about cyclist safety and create a political space for urban cyclists.
Critical Mass involves riding in a mass along often pre-determined routes, leafleting cars, ‘corking’ (temporarily blockading) motorised vehicles at intersections for safety and riding through red lights in order for the mass to stay together. The edict of ‘safety in numbers’ is maintained by keeping the mass together and creating a car-free zone as the ride moves along.
In Melbourne, Critical Mass enjoyed a high degree of tolerance from the Victoria Police. Helmet and other bicycle riding offences were enforced on occasion.
The careful creation of a party-like atmosphere on the Mass has resulted in very few altercations with motorists.
Despite the Mass’s claim that ‘We don’t block traffic, we are traffic’; offences such as disobeying a traffic light are possible. However, people were rarely fined or charged.