A peaceful assembly supports arrested Extinction Rebellion activists at Bega Court.

A gathering of 50 or so people protested outside Bega Court today in a show of peaceful solidarity and support for four Extinction Rebellion activists charged for their role in a dramatic action last Tuesday. Their presence at local member Andrew Constance’s office closed traffic in the heart of Bega for 6 hours as specialist Police Rescue removed 3 people from the office awning.

Those arrested last week while they peacefully challenged government climate and forestry policy faced a total of 19 charges. One 21 year old activist is still in custody, refusing to sign bail conditions. Today, 2 of the 5 matters are listed for mention. “The state is increasingly protecting and legalising climate crimes and criminalising protest activity” said Sally-Anne Brown a member of XR Bega Valley.

Members of Extinction Rebellion, environment defenders and democracy protectors such as South East Region Conservation Alliance, Australian Parents for Climate Action Bega Valley, Climate Action Mobilisation Bega Valley, Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast-Forces for Nature were present to show that ‘this is no longer a minority issue and that vulnerable populations have the most to lose” said Sally-Anne.

Lining the pavement at the corner of Carp and Gipps St the assembly sang and held signs of support to drop the charges and “who are the real criminals?” in a reference to climate crimes that are sanctioned by government. Particular concern was expressed for the member held in custody for minor offences, to be freed.

Sally-Anne said "While the right to protest remains, extensive limits are imposed on protests by the criminal law, the civil law and more recently, applications for victims’ compensation. These impingements on the right to peaceful assembly and protest are being vigorously applied in response to the growing number of people calling for action. “These strategies may back fire, increasing the determination of extinction rebellion to address the predicted loss of life and mass extinctions from climate change” said XR Bega Valley spokesperson Annabell Gottwald.

"Extinction Rebellion calls for the government’s protection (zero emissions), restoration and funding of ecosystem recovery and regeneration for the next generations. This duty of care was recently acknowledged in the federal court. Much more needs to happen at state and federal levels to take emergency climate action.

"Extinction Rebellion is demanding the establishment of binding Citizens Assemblies to reach net zero emissions by 2025 and halt biodiversity loss. Citizens assemblies have played an important role in directing appropriate action around the world. “Bega community could benefit from practicing these ideas, instead of accepting criminalisation of protestors, as we face urgent adaptation demands and scarcer resources” said Annabell.

Photo: South East Region Conservation Alliance Inc "One of the biggest loads of woodchips EVER to leave Eden is being loaded right now. This bulk carrier, "Pearl" arrived this morning to load 55,000 tonnes of woodchips for export to China."