Police have charged 56 people during climate change protests that caused major traffic disruptions in Brisbane’s CBD.
A heavy contingent of police, including mounted officers, were on the scene from on Tuesday morning as hundreds of protesters converged on William Street and other areas of the city, with some activists sitting on roadways.
Police arrested 15 men and 12 women aged between 19 and 65 just before 8.30am for offences including contravene direction, obstruct traffic, obstruct police, and breach of peace.
Officers later arrested another 29 people, aged between 19 and 73, for similar offences in the CBD.
Police said they expected the disruptions to continue until 9pm as smaller groups broke away from the main crowd of activists.
Several activists who were blocking traffic were forcibly removed by police and dragged from the road.
“We declare it our duty to act on behalf of our children … we declare ourselves in rebellion against our government,” one protester told the crowd.
The main protest area was cleared out about 2pm on Tuesday, and hundreds of protesters then marched down from 1 William Street to Reddacliff Place.
Superintendent Chris Stream said some protesters were arrested for offences including public nuisance, disobeying lawful direction and also disrupting police.
“It is some time in the Brisbane city area since we’ve seen this amount of arrests,” he said.
‘We will do everything we possibly can to clear intersections and to enable at least limited traffic flow.”
He said police had been “generally happy” with the behaviour of protesters.
“What we are pleased to see is that the larger amount of police interactions today have not involved violence,” he said.
“The only information I have in relation to a person being tackled to the ground was where a police officer was attempting to affect an arrest at the intersection of George and Elizabeth Street.
“A member of the public intervened as one of the protesters fled that area and tackled the protester to the ground.”
‘Government is not representing the people’
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Tom Howell told the ABC it was a citizen’s duty to rebel.
“We cannot be ignored,” he said.
“People are uncomfortable with disrupting other people’s lives, but it is the best option we have left to get people talking about the climate emergency, to get the Government responding to it and to kind of make the economy pay attention to it, because if people can’t go to work then the economy can suffer.
“Every other form of dissidence has failed.
“We’ve had our petitions, we’ve had marches, the Government is not representing the people.”
‘You should be ashamed of yourselves’
Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner was heckled and interrupted by the activists when he tried to hold a press conference in the city on Tuesday morning.
“I think you should be ashamed of yourselves,” the Lord Mayor told members of Extinction Rebellion.
The protesters repeatedly shouted “shame on you” over the top of him, before the press conference was moved inside.
“The Lord Mayor has run away from citizens who care about climate change,” former Greens lord mayoral candidate Ben Pennings told the media.
Translink’s Matt Longland said the transport service had additional staff rostered on to manage disruptions to bus services.
“By all accounts, it will be larger and more disruptive than what we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.
“We’ll have additional people in the network co-ordination centre and also additional people on the ground that we can deploy into any areas where we’re facing any issues.
“We’ll need to obviously work closely with the Queensland Police Service about how the protesters are being managed and how we can keep vehicles – particularly bus services moving through the city efficiently.”
Tuesday’s protest follows other climate change protests that disrupted Brisbane city traffic over the last two months.
In July, members of Extinction Rebellion stopped and started traffic every 10 minutes during peak hour.
On another occasion, nine protesters were arrested after they glued themselves to the road.
In June, Extinction Rebellion blocked part of Brisbane’s Victoria Bridge, before they locked themselves together inside a canoe at South Brisbane.