Tom Howell (right) from Extinction Rebellion SEQ.
Tom Howell (right) from Extinction Rebellion SEQ.

Extinction Rebellion: More CBD shutdowns ahead

EXTINCTION Rebellion SEQ will take to Brisbane's CBD next week when they aim to disrupt Queensland Parliament on Tuesday.

The morning of non-violent direct action is due to start at 8am, and Extinction Rebellion protester Tom Howell said 2020 would be an even bigger year for environmental activism than last year.

"It absolutely has to be. I think people are as disillusioned as they could possibly be with the current government," he said.

"People are realising it's our last chance to do something so they're willing to put their lives on hold and be arrested and face the consequences and likely jail time."

Mr Howell said he'd also noticed an increasing willingness of supporters to step up and be prepared to be more radical.

"Before they might've said 'we'll help out and be there on the day but we don't want to be in danger of being arrested'. Now they're wanting to do actions to target the fossil fuel industry and they're happy to be arrested multiple times," he said.

"I think anyone who was considering it is now absolutely sure. I'd say people are definitely willing to go a lot further to put their body and their time on the line to potentially be arrested, whereas before they were sideline acts."

Tom Howell leaving the Brisbane watch house after he was arrested during a protest in October. (AAP Image/Richard Gosling)
Tom Howell leaving the Brisbane watch house after he was arrested during a protest in October. (AAP Image/Richard Gosling)

Mr Howell said Extinction Rebellion SEQ were speaking to different groups across the country, and they all had big plans for a year of environmental activism.

"There'll be lots of things targeting industry, conferences, as well as the city-based activism, and there are still big pushes for people to go up north to the Adani blockade," he said.

"It's really getting bigger even in smaller places. They're really firing up."

After 2019 saw protesters glue themselves to busy intersections and suspending themselves from bridges, Mr Howell said there should be even more varied kinds of stunts this year.

Tom Howell being arrested during a protest in August. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Tom Howell being arrested during a protest in August. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

"There are always new and different techniques and strategies used. There are a lot of small groups springing up with ideas about how they want to create change, so it's going to be a lot more decentralised and a lot more variety with what's happening," he said.

"It's going to be very, very interesting."

He said the actions would be a mix of industry-targeted actions and CBD shutdowns.

"It will be both. There are a lot of people who want to target the fossil fuel industry directly, so whether that's head offices or industry, there's definitely a lot of people wanting to do it and knowing that they might risk jail time but are willing to do it," he said.

An Extinction Rebellion protest on William Jolly Bridge in October. (Photo: Annette Dew)
An Extinction Rebellion protest on William Jolly Bridge in October. (Photo: Annette Dew)

Mr Howell said Extinction Rebellion SEQ had continued to hold training workshops over the last few months, and that he couldn't rule out an action taking place before the plan to disrupt Parliament on Tuesday.

"There have been lots of working groups working together from drummers to street performers and dance troupes, but there's obviously more action-based stuff as well. It rarely stops," he said.

"Normally what would happen would be people do an action in the lead-up so that it gets lots of attention and then more people come. There very well could be."

Mr Howell believes his personal Facebook account has also been hacked.

"You can see other devices on the Gold Coast logging in at the same time that I'm actually on it," he said.

"We operate under the premise that we're always being listened to, so you wouldn't put anything too personal or sensitive on there."

He's also confident he and other members of Extinction Rebellion are still under police surveillance.

Extinction Rebellion protesters locked-on to pink boats during a protest in Brisbane’s CBD in October. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)
Extinction Rebellion protesters locked-on to pink boats during a protest in Brisbane’s CBD in October. (AAP Image/Josh Woning)

"They know if I go to New South Wales and recognise you on the street," he said.

"We use encrypted channels but there are some things that (police) have turned up to or known that they couldn't have known about unless they were tapping phones or had a long standing informant in the group," he said.

"But the paranoia of it all is often worse for the movement than what they'll be able to find out. At the end of the day, everything we do, we own up to."

"It's not about doing illegal activities and not getting caught - it's about being able to do them and have them take place without them being stopped. We always own up and don't run away from taking the blame or the credit, however you want to see it."



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