New South Wales Police are being pressured to drop the charges of more than a hundred climate change protestors who were arrested in Newcastle over the weekend.
Protestors paddled out into Newcastle Port on Saturday morning for a 32-hour protest organised by climate change activist group Rising Tide to stop coal exports leaving the city.
They were demanding the government to stop allowing new coal projects, start taxing fossil fuel export profits at 75 per cent to fund community and industrial transition and pay for climate loss and damage.
The protest was pre-planned and the group had permission by police to hold the waters until 4pm on Sunday.
However, police announced on Monday morning that they had arrested 109 people, including 49 men, 60 women, and five minors, for remaining in the water past 4pm.
“Police will allege in court that a number of protesters purposely entered the harbour channel after this time despite appropriate warnings and directions by police,” a NSW Police statement read.
“They were all issued court attendance notices for operating a vessel so as to interfere with others use of waters.”
The oldest protestor arrested was 97-year-old Uniting Church minister Alan Stuart, making him the oldest person ever to be arrested and charged in Australian history. The youngest protestor arrested over the weekend was 15.
“Whatever happens to me doesn’t matter,” Stuart said in a media stand up.
“But what happens to the climate, because the climate is going to affect future generations, my grandchildren and great grandchildren and so on.
“I want them to have the same privileges that we had.”
A number of groups including The Greens and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties have called on police to drop the charges.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Lydia Shelly said they were concerned the charges sent a worrying message.
“New South Wales already has a reputation for being a state that restricts and curtails the right to protest unnecessarily,” she said.
“It is shameful that NSW Police have arrested and charged Legal Observers at the recent climate change protest.
“It risks the State of NSW, which is already home to some of the most draconian anti-protest laws in the country, becoming further tarnished in the eyes of those who value transparency, accountability, and civil liberties.”
Shelly said the charges needed to be immediately withdrawn, adding that it was “not in the public interest” to proceed.
“If the charges are not withdrawn, it risks sending a dangerous message to the public that NSW police do not want their interactions or conduct with peaceful protestors monitored by independent organisations,” she said.
All protestors were out of the water by 5.30pm.