October 13 - 19, 2019: Issue 424


The Extinction Rebellion Reaches the Shores of Manly to stage 'heads in the sand' demonstration: 75 year old relates rough handling in earlier protest

At Manly Beach this week - photo supplied

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists dug holes and put their heads in the sand at a symbolic Northern Beaches protest on Friday, with a scientist who was arrested earlier in the week joining in.

Police dragged bio-diversity lecturer Martin Wolterding, 75, off Parramatta Road at the group’s environmental demonstration in the city on Monday, where some others arrested received stringent bail conditions.

At Friday’s protest on Manly beach, attended also by Pittwater residents, Mr Wolterding said he was supporting his other Extinction Rebellion friends and showing them and the police that he would not be intimidated in getting the message about the current environmental emergency out. 

Sometimes XR was confrontational and sometimes it used humour to get the message across, he said.   

“A couple of people decided that what they would like to do is come down to the beach and put their heads in the sand to symbolise those out there in political offices, political positions, who have their heads in the sand but refuse to admit it,” he told Pittwater Online.

“The truth is so horrific that the human brain doesn’t want to contemplate it.  

“So many people are still distracting themselves, still in denial about the seriousness of this environmental and bio-diversity emergency.” 

Mr Wolterding said an embryonic XR group had begun on the Northern Beaches but those concerned about the issues could also discuss declaring an “environmental emergency” within their own groups – including churches and choirs – and join XR, bringing their own flags and banners along to events. 

“One doesn’t have to be a member of Extinction Rebellion to be in this struggle, we want everybody to come in,” he said. 

“Everyone will come to realise sooner or later that we were right, they were wrong, and my sincere prayer is that when they come to that realisation it will be early enough to join us.”

Discussing his arrest earlier in the week, Mr Wolterding said police had used a wrist lock, a form of pain control on him – injuring him in the process. 

“They over-reacted and they hurt me, and when they realised they hurt me they had to send me off to the hospital,” he said. 

Mr Wolterding received no bail conditions, unlike others arrested who stated given bail conditions which ban them from coming within 2km of the Sydney Town Hall, attending future Extinction Rebellion events or “going near” or speaking to members of Extinction Rebellion.

Of course, banning people from turning up 'within 2km of Town Hall' may also make it difficult to attend court in town without breaching those bail conditions (see this Issue's Cattle prods and welfare cuts: mounting threats to Extinction Rebellion show demands are being heard, but ignored by Piero Moraro, Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Charles Sturt University).

On Wednesday, the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties said the conditions were “absurd”, would affect thousands of people, and infringed on the constitutional right to freedom of political communication.

“Where there is a legitimate political issue such as seeking action on climate change, protesters shouldn’t be seen to be forfeiting their democratic rights including freedom of association, freedom of movement and the implied right to freedom of political expression.” - NSWCCL President, Pauline Wright.

Martin Wolterding at Manly this week

Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who had similar bail conditions imposed on him, was in Sydney’s Downing Centre local court on Thursday morning (October 10th), where deputy chief magistrate Jane Mottley said the conditions imposed by New South Wales police were not necessary given the low seriousness of his offences.

“I note these are fine-only offences,” she said. “And when one considers the ambit of matters before the court – these are not serious examples of offences which would ordinarily attract bail conditions”.

That same day, NSW Greens senator David Shoebridge said the conditions were so extreme NSW police “knew they would be thrown out of court”. 

For one young woman police were trying to impose bail conditions that would have meant staying away from her parents, flat mates, friends, and partner.

On Thursday morning, magistrate Mottley dismissed the conditions and gave Ludlam unconditional bail.

In arrest documents, NSW police state that protesters “if released from custody, will endanger the safety of victims, individuals or the community [and] interfere with witnesses or evidence”.

Mr Wolterding will appear in court on November 6. 

“My day in court will be my next chance to give my message,” he said.

At Manly Extinction Rebellion protesters symbolically 'stuck their heads in the sand' to send a clear message to politicians. Around 150 protesters buried their heads in the sand for one minute as part of the week-long events being staged across the country as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests.

“As we face into the Climate Emergency, it seems many around us have their heads in the sand, afraid to face the reality of what is coming,” the Facebook page for the event stated.

“Taking action to bring about change is the only way forward for the future of our planet.

To highlight the futility of the heads in sand approach, we will gather with as many people as possible on Manly beach.”

The Extinction Rebellion has been leading a week-long series of protests in cities across Australia to raise awareness about climate change as part of a campaign to force Australian governments to declare a “climate emergency’.

The protests are also taking place overseas as part of a 'Spring Rebellion' that in western Sydney has looked like this:

Today, Sunday October 13th, the Extinction Rebellion continues at another beach - this time it's Bondi's turn where the icon being used, that of an hour glass, will be formed by the protesters on the sands of that famous beach.

The Extinction Rebellion began on October 31st 2018, when Londoners assembled on Parliament Square in London to announce a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK Government. 

They were expecting a couple of hundred people. Instead, 1500 came to participate in peaceful civil disobedience. During the next few weeks six thousand converged on London to peacefully block five major bridges across the Thames. 

They planted trees in the middle of Parliament Square, and dug a hole there to bury a coffin representing the planet's future. Protesters super-glued ourselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace as they read a letter to the Queen. 

Their actions generated huge national and international publicity and, as news spread, so did the Extinction Rebellion - around the world. Dozens of countries now have groups springing up, from the Solomon Islands to Australia, from Spain to South Africa, the US to India.

The three demands that originated in London are being shared here too. They are:

  1. Tell the truth - Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Act Now - Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Beyond Politics - Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

However, with government at state and federal level introducing new Bills that civil liberties advocates state appear to be a ‘crackdown’ against free speech and basic principles of democratic governance, (the NSW government's Right to Farm Bill 2019 being exampled by many) approving extensions of coal mines prior to consultation periods expiring, changing 'policy' so koalas may be 'translocated' to facilitate development and destruction of their habitat*, the extinction crisis, at least locally, is set to continue and even be accelerated by state and federal government.

Last week, Australia's Home Affairs Minister, The Hon. Peter Dutton, stated disruptive Extinction Rebellion protesters should have their welfare cut, face mandatory jail sentences and that “people should take these names, and the photos of these people, and distribute them as far and wide as we can so that we shame these people”.

It would appear that no Extinction Rebellion protester is ashamed of what they are doing, nor afraid of having their photo taken or their name listed among those opposed to extinction, and that the 'Spring Rebellion' will continue.


*The NSW government adopted a translocation policy in May 2019 which states its key objective  [is to] increase good practice in translocation initiatives by ensuring they:

are only undertaken where necessary or beneficial for conservation of the species or as part of an approved offset arrangement [for a state significant development]