Minister, 97, among 109 arrested at port blockade

Police minister under fire over port rallies

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More than 100 climate protesters will face court, a 97-year-old minister of religion among them, following a weekend blockade at Port of Newcastle.

Groups began taking turns paddling into the shipping lane servicing the world’s largest coal port on Saturday morning, in an action planned to last 30 hours.

But as 4pm passed on Sunday, marking the end of police permission for the protest, scores remained in the water expecting arrest.

As a result, a total of 109 people were arrested, 49 men, 60 women and five juvenile demonstrators, police said on Monday.

Two of the men, aged 23 and 65, were remanded to appear before Newcastle Local Court on Monday, while 86 were issued court attendance notices and the five minors will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act.

All have been charged with operating a vessel so as to interfere with others’ use of waters.

Police said on Sunday it would be alleged the protesters purposely entered the harbour channel after the 4pm deadline lapsed despite warnings and directions.

Protest organiser Alexa Stuart said her 97-year-old grandfather, Uniting Church minister Alan Stuart, was among those arrested.

“If the government will not take action on climate change, the people will use civil disobedience,” she said.

“We wish we did not have to do this but the Albanese government needs to understand we are serious.”

Stuart said he was doing his duty to his family and the planet.

“I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations because I don’t want to leave them a world full of increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters,” he said.

Protesters demanded the government stop allowing new coal projects, tax fossil fuel export profits at 75 per cent to fund community and industrial transition, and pay for climate loss and damage.

The action had the support of senior Greens and the party’s former federal leader Bob Brown.

Current federal leader Adam Bandt, who kayaked out with protesters on Saturday, called those taking part heroes.

“People here know that we’re nearing a climate tipping point and that coal and gas are fuelling the climate crisis,” he said.

But NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said while everyone had the right to protest, protest leaders had to ensure those participating did it safely and within the law.


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