The Stop HRL collective called a rally at Federation Square for 9.30am on Monday 11 April, but what they didn’t announce was that a number of activists would be attempting to occupy a Government building at that time …
So the event began as a rally setting up at Federation Square, but almost at once the word came to march up to Treasury Place, where five activists were now locked on to a steel ladder in the foyer of No 1, which houses both State and Federal offices. They had entered without hindrance and were now refusing to leave until their demands were met, including a halt to funding for a new coal-fired power station in the LaTrobe Valley, and the redirection of the money towards developing renewable energy sources.
Some of the activists were successful in getting an unscheduled meeting with Energy Minister Michael O’Brien – at one point it was reported that Victorian Government business had come to a halt because the whole cabinet was holed up inside the building unable to leave – though in the event he was not in any mind to give the required commitments.In terms of media interest generated, however, the action was an overwhelming success, and surely laid a basis for wider community involvement. There is a survey of media coverage on the StopHRL website, and a gallery of photos from the day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/61659025@N02/.
Once outside the building, the rally heard from a succession of speakers: Dr Merryn Redenbach for Stop HRL, Julien Vincent from Greenpeace, Naomi Hogan of Rising Tide Newcastle), Vivien Langford of Beyond Zero Emissions, and Drew Hutton of Lock the Gate, as well as updates via mobile phone from the people inside. There was also music from the Riff Raff Radical Marching Band from Sydney, and long-term activist comedian Rod Quantock was a welcome guest speaker, followed by a members of the rally taking advantage of the open mic. There was a long wait, and the police line had to be relieved at lunchtime, which meant that Beyond Zero Emissions representatives had an opportunity to repeat their presentation of the technology of solar-thermal baseload generation for the benefit of those who had missed out the first time round. It was reported at one point that the minister had agreed to come down and meet the protesters in view of the rally, but this was later withdrawn, and eventually there was agreement that he would meet three in his office, and the others would leave, along with supporters who had kept them company inside. The whole process lasted the best part of four and a half hours, and the five certainly deserved every cheer they received when they emerged.
The media summary on StopHRL includes links to TV footage, but longer excerpts from the speeches and other parts of the action will be posted here shortly.* There is also a report on Melbourne Indymedia, sourced from Friends of the Earth and others.
From the callout:
The company HRL is planning a new coal-fired power station in Victoria, and the state & federal governments have committed $150 million towards it. This money should be funding Victoria’s future renewable energy industries.
Over the last couple of months the Stop HRL campaign has been building community awareness and preparing to mobilise in the likely event that the EPA approves this new power station. The latest news is that this application process has been dragging on because the EPA requested more information from HRL before completed their assessment, and HRL has been very slow in providing this information – the EPA is still waiting.
The Stop HRL collective was originally planning to respond once the EPA had approved the project, but this delay has enabled us to go on the front foot.
This coming weekend, the 3rd annual national grassroots climate summit is on in Melbourne (which we highly recommend – check out the program & RSVP here: http://www.climatesummit.org.au). As part of this summit, climate activists will be coming from across Australia to join our protest.
The action will be the culmination of the national grassroots climate action summit.
It will be a rally with a range of impressive speakers. And to kick off our media campaign, some people will take peaceful, dignified and inspiring direct action close to the rally to highlight the strength of community commitment to stop this proposal.
Please sign up to our contact list at http://www.stophrl.org, forward to your local group members and ask at least one friend or colleague to sign up too.