Protester vows: ‘New laws won’t stop us’
A CLIMATE activist who locked himself to a boat trailer last week has promised more protests in Brisbane within weeks.
Climate activist Tom Howell was arrested last week after he blocked four lanes of traffic by using a lock on device with another protester in the CBD on Thursday.
The pair livestreamed the incident using a phone that was glued to one of their hands after they used a metal pipe to lock on to a trailer that was towing a pink boat.
The trailer was attached to a car that had another two protesters - including serial protester Eric Herbert - locked on through the front windows.
Mr Howell said the stunt was designed to get the attention of the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk outside the 'Tower of Power' after she vowed to fast track new laws to stop the use of lock ons in demonstrations.
"We decided to make a big submission outside 1 William St," he said.
"Lock ons are only ever designed to make (the protest) last longer - never to injure or maim. It's just a physical barrier between them moving you."
Mr Howell was charged with obstructing a roadway and was fined $800 for his part in the protest, and said it wouldn't stop him from doing it again.
"I guess we just have to carry on or it will all be for nothing and we don't have much time left," he said.
Mr Howell said activists knew they were under police surveillance during what was touted as a week of rebellion for the movement across the world.
"We had police in cars with listening devices. They had undercover cops outside our houses. We kind of expected it," he said.
"We did a test of our text messages, because the day before, the police had been waiting for us at certain points when things were meant to happen, so Wednesday was a quieter day because of that."
"Then we started sending dummy text messages saying 'we'll meet you at this point' and we sent someone to look and the cops had rushed there, so they were monitoring our phones. As soon as we stopped using text, they had no idea what we were doing."
He said the group are also aware that they may have been infiltrated by non-activists.
"We operate under the assumption that there is a spy, and people who report back," he said.
"We kind of know from stories that come out that they know things that they'd only know from people who are coming to meetings and are in some groups."
Despite police scrutiny, activists were able to stage their biggest stunt yet on Thursday.
"There were two bright pink boats with the Extinction Rebellion logo all over them that managed to drive straight into the city, absolutely undetected. People got out of their cars, got everything ready and locked themselves on," he said.
"I think one person on George St got caught before they managed to lock on, but that was one person out of 19 who got stopped. I'm not sure if (the police) were just a bit asleep on Thursday."
Police haven't raided protester's homes, but Mr Howell said it was likely with the introduction of the new laws.
"We have nothing illegal at our houses," he said.
"I don't know that they'd have the grounds to raid our house based on protesting activity, but with the new laws, it will give them powers to stop us in our cars, on the streets and raid our houses. I get the feeling they're waiting for that."
But he said even the threat of the new laws won't stop activists from protesting.
"Blocking traffic is illegal, and the act of putting yourself or someone else in danger is illegal, so the existing laws are there to punish us for what we do," he said.
"This is just going to mean jail time and that our houses can be raided, but it won't stop people because you can't outlaw bike locks and superglue."
"It will be very interesting to see if they start arresting people for having a bike lock on them. No matter what the law is, people just get creative and get around it. And people will still use lock ons and just face the punishment."
Mr Howell said Extinction Rebellion SEQ had been flooded with support since their involvement in the week of rebellion.
"We're wondering whether we should've stopped on Friday or whether we should've carried on to Monday, but I think it's good to reflect and learn," he said..
"We're just getting inundated with support, so it's just making sure we go forward in the right way."
He also promised there would be more protests to come.
"You can expect to see more in the next few weeks. Absolutely," he said.
"We just want to make sure it's done safely and effectively, and that we make sure all the people who've now been inspired and want to do it now have that same level of understanding and training that we gave to people before Rebellion Week. I think that's why you didn't see violence erupt."
"It was quite a week. We're definitely going to carry on from here."