As week of action ends, a campaign begins

By Miriam Deprez and Eliah Lillis

 

Under a sweltering north Queensland midday sun, a line of police stand opposite protesters outside The Pier, an upmarket restaurant in Townsville. Inside are senators Matt Canavan, George Christensen and Fiona Nash, who all publicly support Adani. Protesters have gathered outside the business luncheon to voice their opposition. Downtown, another group has gathered outside the regional Adani headquarters. By the end of the day, 5 protesters will be arrested, and a week of actions in the Bowen region will have come to an end. But the Mungbean Militia say they have only just began.

This week was the first step in what is anticipated to be a lengthy campaign of non-violent direct action (NVDA). While opposition and protest to the proposed mine has been ongoing for years, this has been a significant step up in disruptions in the local region. Blockades to the Abbott point terminal, lock-ons to coal train lines and sit-ins at Adani’s head office in the region have all been designed to cause maximum disruption and attract significant media attention. And in that, the protesters have been successful.

First deemed the ‘Mungbean Militia’ by George Christensen, the protesters have been a favourite of local media, controversial within the region. Indeed, tensions were high in Bowen by the end of the week. Local shops proudly displayed signage re-appropriated from the protesters. ‘#Stop Adani” is transformed to “Stop Adani, over my dead body”. An official Adani flag is proudly flying next to a store front. After an action where protesters unfurled a #stopadani banner from the towns water tower, Bowen mayor Andrew Wilcox promised his constitute water would be tested for contaminates. The message is clear, the so called "grot protesters from Sydney and Melbourne” by local councillor Michael Brunker, are not welcome here.

Emma Briggs, a protester who last week ‘locked-on’ to a railway line to Abbott point, to halt work, is aware of this local sentiment, and is apologetic. “I’m sorry to the minority who are upset with what we are doing but I think if they knew what was going on they would understand.” Indeed, Mike Brunker himself denies climate change. When asked about possible environmental impacts from the mega mine in relation to man-made global warming, his response was, ‘oh, if you believe in that.”

The highway from Bowen to Townsville is near identical to most roads in the region. Hot, never-ending and with a seemingly endless corridor of cane fields on both sides. Except now, this road is punctuated by #stopadani graffiti. Property damage is officially banned within the guidelines of NVDA, and protesters agree to these conditions before entering the campaign. Winning the hearts and minds of locals is a critical element to the activist’s strategy, with trained community liaison officers assigned to engage with the public. However, this graffiti has further angered locals, with several citizens expressing their discontent and hampering the activists efforts so far of creating allies in the region.

After a total of 17 arrests, numerous actions and widespread media coverage, Camp Babirra has disbanded and a week of protest is over. Many activists returned to homes, both nationally and within the region. Most have vowed to return until the proposed mine is stopped.

 

Image: Police and Protesters face off outside 'The Pier' as senators attend a luncheon inside. @EliahLillis

Follow Miriam and Eliah on Twitter at @m_deprez and @Eliah_Lillis