26 June 14
Our introduction to the #leardblockade started with being pulled over by the police.
We were driving at night on the rural road that leads from Narrabri township to Maules Creek when the patrol ute approached us from the opposite direction, pulled to the side of the road, waited for us to pass and then pursued us with its lights and siren on. The police officer was pleasant and friendly. He didn’t ask to see my driver’s license or give me a random breath-test. He chatted a little bit, asked if I knew where I was going and gave me verbal instructions on how to reach Wando Camp.
Clearly not many campervans drive down this road unless they’re heading to Cliff Wallace property to join the blockade, and the police like to keep tabs on who’s involving themselves in the protests. No doubt my license-plate number was recorded for future reference.
The Leard Blockade protesters are travellers, tourists, career protesters, retirees, concerned citizens with time on their hands, members of Greenpeace, delegates from ARRCC — individuals, couples and families. They’ve all come together to raise awareness, halt operations and make a stand against Whitehaven Coal’s proposed Maules Creek mine and other coal mining operations in the Leard State Forest.
Although our time at the camp was so short, I participated in a non-violent, direct-action workshop where strategies were explained, analysed and offered to the protesters. Because I knew I wasn’t participating, I avoided the planning meeting for their latest protest, but I did hear enough to know that people were accepting the risk of arrest, fines and jail-terms for taking action.
It’s inspiring to be around people who believe so passionately in their cause — and are willing to suffer society’s consequences as a result. Future generations will judge these protesters kindly and scoff at the current policies that are disregarding the wealth of nature and culture that is bound up in the forests of our country.
My role at the camp this time was simply to inform my daughters of what is going on in the world outside our Rainbows and friends’ homes, and I feel that it would be beneficial to camp at this blockade or another similar protest for several weeks in order to truly contribute meaningfully. I haven’t yet worked out how to actively participate in potentially illegal protests, but I can certainly support other more daring souls by providing back-up at camp through serving and maintenance.
When we drove away, the police stopped us again. Two marked vehicles formed a mini-blockade at the end of Cliff’s road, and this time they wanted to see my license and asked where I was going. It was easy to answer their questions, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being hassled — and this is something the protesters are facing every day.
It feels like the police are on the wrong side in this case — against the people! — and no doubt some individual police officers feel that way. However, until public sentiment shifts enough to affect political policies, the coal mines will continue to spread across our land — ruthlessly scraping away our forests, polluting our air and water, and exporting our nation’s resources. The Leard Blockade and others like it are necessary for our children’s future — I am convinced.