Specialist police forced to ‘babysit’ climate protesters
AN ELITE police squad tasked with taking down high-risk offenders is wasting hundreds of hours babysitting climate change protesters clogging up Brisbane's CBD.
The Public Safety Response Team has unglued and cut protestors out of chains while also being placed on a weekly standby since groups ramped up their action mid-year.
It has become a core role for the specialist police, despite teams normally patrolling southeast Queensland streets with military-style rifles for higher risk jobs including armed offenders.
Extinction Rebellion plans to stage protests from Monday to Friday as part of "International Rebellion Week" as fed-up politicians and industry groups call for their jail time.
At the same time of the southeast action, The Courier-Mail has confirmed companies are paying police in central Queensland to monitor train lines for protesters.
Acting Chief Superintendent Tony Fleming said general duties police should be attending robberies and domestic violence incidents but were forced to divert resources for the Brisbane protests.
Months of planning has been undertaken to plan for worst case scenario which could close streets for lengthy periods.
Police have also had to launch an operation codenamed Romeo Arrowhead, with a command centre to deal with spontaneous protests.
Tactics used by the protest groups have included tripods, barrels with concrete in them, lock-on devices, sit-ins, swarming across intersections, sit-ins and marches, ropes off bridges, gluing to the road and interfering with businesses, Supt Fleming said.
He said it was difficult to help the group conduct a lawful protest because they did not talk to police about plans, compared to an organised and peaceful climate protest last month which involved 15,000 people.
Extinction Rebellion had a right to express an opinion but didn't have a right to force views on others and obstruct them from going about their lives, he said.
Officers are planning mass arrests.
"We know on August 6 (at a previous protest involving the group) there were 73 arrests, if that's necessary to open up the city then that's what we will do," Supt Fleming said.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said: "We will always support a person's right to protest however irrespective of the cause, these rolling guerrilla strikes are taking up a huge amount of the time and resources of police and that is starting to impact on our ability to address legitimate calls for service from the public as we're too busy babysitting these protesters."
Aurizon yesterday confirmed extra measures were needed for safety of rail lines.
Police officers have been paid overtime for months to work on their days off.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said: "Aurizon has engaged police on special duties to conduct patrols of rail corridors between Abbott Point and Collinsville to deter protest activities."
Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow told The Courier-Mail the last fortnight had been the busiest period for the miner in terms of protest activity both on the Carmichael site, rail line and at Abbott Point, with 10 protests across the locations over the last month.
Mr Dow said some protesters were turning up "masked", wearing bandanas and sunglasses.
"The question is, if you're not doing anything wrong then why do you get around with the need to shield your face in that sort of situation?" he said.
"What we're talking about is there's a core group of 15-20 people that are just pitching up on site in a futile attempt to stop the work and the reality is the works rolled on irrespective of their efforts."
Mr Dow said if protesters broke the law, then they should face jail time.
Dawson MP George Christensen said "we need to up the ante on these illegal activists".
"I think that part of the strategy has to be extending the laws that we recently put through federal parliament targeting militant vegans that were attacking farms and apply that same legislation to militant green protesters who are targeting law-abiding businesses and workers and the general public for these protests in the middle of roadways and railways."
The State Government has introduced new laws which could result in protesters who use "dangerous attachment devices" facing fines of up to $7000 and two years in jail. However they are not expected to be in place until next year.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) spokesman Dan Petrie said the ongoing disruption was having a serious knock on effect to the local economy in terms of lost productivity.
"Protesting is part of Australia's history as a western democracy but disturbing the peace without any regard to the laws is a criminal offence," he said.
"This obstruction has moved beyond protests and is clearly at the point where many of these participants are simply a nuisance and the correct application of the law including jail time should be considered."
Extinction Rebellion spokesman Greg Rolles said there was a "climate emergency" and the media and the government had failed to tell the truth.
Members of the group were prepared to be arrested again he said.
"We are looking at social collapse by 2050 according to the Break Free report," Mr Rolles said.
"If legal protests and petitions were going to work they would have worked in the last 40 years.
"We undertake non-violent civil disobedience as a way to force action on this climate emergency."
Activists at Belyando, west of Mackay, yesterday said they blocked a drill rig and Adani work vehicles from accessing Carmichael mine, raising concerns over water availability.
Supt Fleming said police arrested 128 people on 167 charges for protests in Brisbane's CBD this year, most of which were Extinction Rebellion.