Sometimes Protesters Should Be Locked Up – Sorry For The Inconvenience

Climate protesters are headlining the news for causing disruptions in major cities across Australia and something about this has an odd familiarity – haven’t we already done that this year?

Oh wait, that was the vegans back in April making it impossible for Melbournites to get to work on time with their peak hour CBD protests. You’d be forgiven for getting the two confused. It’s all very Groundhog Day.

The difference now is everyone’s starting to get a little jaded with activists disturbing their lives on a regular basis. And rightly so. This week we’ve got people dressed as bees playing dead on the footpath, and others flaunting bird costumes and g-strings, leaving us somewhat confused over whether this is a climate strike or Mardi Gras.

Others still are suspending themselves under bridges, locking themselves to barrels filled with cement, flash mobbing peak hour public transport, and obstructing the general flow of traffic. It’s all a bit much for those of us who just want to clock in our nine-to-five’s and get home to Netflix.

Climate strike or Mardi Gras? (Image: AAP)
Police and rescue workers in Brisbane try to extract a protester from a barrel filled with cement. (Image: Getty)
An activist from Extinction Rebellion dangles from the Story Bridge in a hammock as part of protests in Brisbane. (Image: AAP)

These demonstrations are part of a two-week international protest against climate change, organised by the movement Extinction Rebellion, which identifies as a group that uses "non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse”.

The group has staged protests around the world with the intention of forcing the government to tell the truth about climate change by declaring it an ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, and create a Citizen’s Assembly on climate change, whose decisions would then lead our government to due action.

Call me a sceptic, but playing dress-up and parading around causing disruption to commuters all seems a very pie-in-the-sky way to provoke the desired outcome here.

In fact, what we’re beginning to see is people discrediting environmental activists as little more than bat-s*it crazy lefties, and the entire message being lost in the madness of halted peak-hour traffic.

Most rational people understand despite the fact they’re raising attention, effecting chaos and breaking laws is a less than ideal tactic to incite governments to make radical changes on climate change policies. It feels a little too much like a rowdy child disrupting the classroom knowing any attention is good attention, even if it’s negative. Any teacher would pay no heed or reward such behaviour but instead remove such distraction from the classroom and dish out the appropriate consequences.

Teachers would remove such distraction from the classroom. (Image: AAP)

Likewise, it seems there are others who are finding this display of civil disobedience unacceptable and think some appropriate consequences should be dished out, saying, "enough is enough". Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is pushing for climate change activists to be jailed, vowing to fast-track proposed laws to imprison protesters for up to two years if they're found using wire, metal or glass to booby-trap their lock-on devices.

And fair enough, when you consider so far this week there have been 56 arrests in Melbourne, more than 40 in Sydney, and 29 in Brisbane, with one ringleader of the group being arrested for illegal protesting seven times now. For an organisation that claims to be “strictly nonviolent and reluctant law-breakers”, it’s fair to say we’re starting to see just a teensy bit of discrepancy here.

Sure, it’s one thing to instigate some good-old-fashioned civil disobedience that makes a point without impacting anyone but those directly involved. Throw together some placards and stand on the steps of Parliament House. Boycott whatever has the most impact to the cause. Don’t pay your taxes. Plant a tree. Get a job. Whatever keeps it between you, and the cause.

But as soon as civil disobedience not only disrupts, but upsets or endangers, the lives of others, we begin to see a problem. This week, the protests have contributed to emergency services struggling to adequately do their job, valuable police time and resources being drained that could be better used for more important matters, as well as the potential danger of both police and emergency services being harmed while attempting to remove lock-on devices used in protests.

With over one hundred arrests in Australia this week alone, it’s clear the protests have become anything but law-abiding, leaving us to wonder if it’s time to implement harsher penalties for activists who repeatedly break laws before someone does get hurt.

It seems enough really has become enough.

Whether the Extinction Rebellion organisation is breaking laws for a noble cause is beside the point. What we are now starting to see is less tolerance for such out of control activism and more anger and resentment toward the wreaking of havoc and the greater potential for harm.

It seems enough really has become enough. (Image: AAP)
Apologies for the inconvenience. (Image: AAP)

If harsher laws, including jailing protesters for up to two years, are what is needed to stop Extinction Rebellion and other extreme activist groups from fostering a climate that pushes us further toward chaos, hostility and division, then I’m willing to bet the majority of Australians would be on board with the proposed legislation.

In the meantime, apologies for the inconvenience and please enjoy your jar of sorry honey.