SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Drill Occupied: Tunnel Picket Friday

Ash and Toby settled atop the drill

Arriving at 5.30am, I learned that a call had gone out earlier and that two picketers had scaled the drill. Within a short time the Search and Rescue team arrived to bring them down.

Attaching the harness to Toby

The young men put up no resistance and Toby was the first to be removed.

Only one to go

He was soon followed by Ash. The protestors received a rousing round of applause as they left the cage - by the protestors, not the police. Ash said later that the Search and Rescue workers had been pleasant this time and were so physically strong that one of them picked him up as easily as if he were a baby.
We settled down to doing what we usually do, and today there was a good piece of news to share. Yesterday it was announced that Lend Lease, one of the main potential tenderers for the East-West Link, had withdrawn from the contentious project to build a coal port at Abbot Point in Queensland. Perhaps this international company has finally concluded that environmentally damaging projects, which attract a lot of negative public attention, are just not worth their while. If that is their reasoning, maybe they will reach the same conclusion about the Tunnel. The drills will stand abandoned and silent, and will be circled peacefully by birds and hot air balloons. I can but hope.

Early morning view

But until that perfect day dawns, we stand watch as the drillers resume their work:

And are heartened by the ever-increasing number of toots from passing motorists.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cavity in the Tooth of the Beast: Tunnel Picket Wednesday

Ready for anything at 5.30am

This morning, a fellow protestor at the drilling site at the corner of Queens and Alexandra parades, came up with a great analogy about our picket. He compared Premier Napthine and his cronies to a huge powerful beast, but a beast with a problem. Inside the large head of this leviathan there are teeth and inside one of those teeth is a cavity. The cavity, though small, is a constant irritant and when the creature puts his tongue on it, it feels as large as a canyon. It impedes the animal's sense of well-being and occasionally reminds him that he is not as strong and impregnable as he imagines. One day he too will fall.

7am - the drill ascending

It is never pleasant to see the drill rising for the start of another day of drilling, but we have become practised at making the most of the time in its shadow:

We socialise

We catch up on reading

We celebrate: 'Happy Birthday to Kat!'

Twenty-four years ago today Kat was born - to make a difference. This year she anticipated the festivities by two days. And not many party girls get to celebrate their birthday at the top of a drilling rig, with all eyes trained on them and a special squad of highly-trained experts required to ensure their safe exit. Who needs a red carpet when you can mark your birthday like that?
Heading off home, I passed the police enjoying breakfast at their picnic tables. Despite their apparent ease, we know that many of them have grave and increasing doubts about this posting. I'm sure not even the limbs of the beast feel comfortable when that pesky cavity just keeps on throbbing.

The strong arms of the beast

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Successful Lock-on: Tunnel Picket Monday

Kat atop the drill

Today we managed to slow down scheduled works, at the corner of Queens and Alexandra parades, for hours. Three protestors, noticing a drill being unloaded early and unexpectedly at this site, had managed to outfox police, enabling one of them to scamper up the rig. By the time I had to leave for work at 8.30am, Kat was still seated in her eyrie, from which the Search and Rescue squad had not yet arrived to extract her.

Kat above, supporters below

Drillers had returned to this familiar site for the third time, because on the last occasion they had mistakenly cut through the sewerage pipe, to the understandable displeasure of the neighbours. Presumably they had returned today in the hope of 'third time lucky'.
Picketers, drillers and police stood around, and stood around.

The waiting game

Periodically we thought action was about to happen as extra police approached picketers.

Changing of the guard

But while I was there, the activity only signalled a change of shift, enabling officers to take their break on the picnic tables under the trees on the median strip opposite.
At one point, there was a short scuffle when Mel attempted to climb on the truck to fill Kat in on events. Mel and Tony were dragged off by the police.

Tony being hauled off

Police themselves climbed up on the truck to take Kat's details - though you would think by now they would have them memorised!:

Kat cooperating with police by providing her details

The picketers stood firm and determined to prevent the drill entering the enclosure. Fortunately the weather today is beautiful, so if there is a prolonged delay with the Search and Rescue team, waiting will not be quite the hardship it has been on other occasions.

In for the long haul

I can only imagine that Kat, sitting and waiting anxiously for the S and R team, would have much preferred to exit via the vehicle floating above her.

'Beam me up, Scottie!'

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Keeping on Keeping on (Tunnel Picket Friday)

Sleeping standing up

I knew just what that officer was feeling when I spotted her with her eyes shut this morning. After all there we all were again, just fallen out of our respective beds, at 5.30am. And although it has been a big week - with the rally on Tuesday and a range of E-W Link evening meetings, as well as the passing yesterday in the Lower House of the anti-picketing amendments - things felt pretty much as usual.

St Kilda Esplanade palm tree - not!

The drillers were there, surrounding the drill. The drill was there, apparently at work on the second hole on the site. The police were there, looking bored out of their brains. The barricade was there, solid, large and impenetrable. And we were there, socialising, sharing information and a laugh and buoying each other up. And, in my case at least, grabbing the opportunity to learn more about the nuances of political action from seasoned activists. All as usual.

I couldn't agree more!

Things feel very much in a 'holding pattern':
Thankfully, the police will not be able to use their extended powers until the amendments have been ratified by the Upper House and then gazetted, so at this moment they are treating us much the same.
Even though we know that drilling is scheduled for Royal Park in the near future, as it is not yet completed at the present site, we are continuing to picket there. Something many picketers, who had attended this week's evening meetings commented on, was the gratitude that people frequently express for our efforts. Often it's a matter of: 'I couldn't be on a picket myself, but it's great that you are.' Of course we would prefer to have these fans join us, but at least the feedback is further reassurance that our efforts are not in vain. Even on days when not a lot is happening.
Sometimes all you can do is keep on keeping on. And perhaps practise sleeping standing up.

Being there

Monday, February 17, 2014

'1,2,3,4, Don't Let Dennis Pass this Law. 5,6,7,8, We have a Right to Demonstrate!'

Shame, Dennis!

Our tunnel picket group met with thousands of other workers at 10am this morning outside the Trades Hall building. We then marched through the CBD to the steps of Parliament House to demonstrate our opposition to the draconian laws proposed by the Napthine government.
Before that we had had our own 'fringe' march through the back streets of Carlton displaying the gorgeous (and heavy!) banner custom-made for the occasion by Bill. Thank you, Bill.

Serial Pests - and proud of it!

It is great that the unions have come out in opposition to legal amendments targeted at tunnel picketers, which apart from having a devastating impact on the unionists themselves, will also affect the homeless, the mentally ill and the young. It felt wonderful to stand in solidarity with other workers at last.

The people united

And we didn't just stand in solidarity. We listened hard to a range of speakers. My personal favourite was Father Bob, who, dressed in his priestly vestments, made the point that parliament has never been located inside the grand Victorian building overshadowing us, but rather on the steps outside, where the people get to have their say.

Listening hard

As well as speakers, we had other entertainment. The drummers punctuated the spoken words with percussive enthusiasm:

Drum roll

There was even an impromptu trumpet solo, which received an enthusiastic response:

Bourbon Street comes to Spring Street

We dispersed after the speeches. But it was interesting to see that while there was clearly a police presence, officer numbers were far fewer proportionally than we experience at our daily picket, which regularly features 4 officers per picketer. Obviously we serial pests present a much greater threat to respectable Melbourne - or at least to the Melbourne of Premier Napthine and his cronies - than do the thousands of workers who peacefully demonstrated their opposition to government policies this morning.

Finished for another day

Monday, February 10, 2014

Emergency Action: Tunnel Picket - Lunchtime update (Tuesday)

Rapid response

As I lifted my sandwich to my mouth, my phone pinged. An Emergency Action alert requested all available to meet opposite Officeworks in Alexandra Parade, as the LMA appeared to be drilling there. With one final longing glance, I dropped my sandwich, and with no time to walk, jumped into the car.
I arrived to find the group above already assembled. Scouts had noticed the truck, whose appearance I'm sure you will agree has been significantly improved by our posters,  at work on the median strip adjacent to Smith Street.

Recently drilled hole

The 'Non-toxic' waste truck had been used to pour some liquid, maybe water, down the hole above, for what purpose we were unsure.
LMA workers had left the site and the truck remained behind, unattended.
By the time I left to return to work, protestors had determined that if any attempt was made to remove the truck to take it to another site, they would resist. If this action eventuates, it will be a first - for once, there are no police in attendance.

Ready to resist

No police, no drilling, no picket (Tuesday)

All dressed up with nowhere to go

A crowd of us turned up as usual this morning to picket the drill site at the corner of Nicholson and Princes Streets. Unexpectedly, there were no police or drillers in sight. We waited for a while, but finally concluded that drilling was unlikely to be happening today.
Various reasons for this were suggested, perhaps the most likely being that the police have been redeployed to assist in fire stricken areas. Without police securing the site, the drillers know that we would prevent them from proceeding, so they have taken the day off. We decided to do likewise, with the proviso that just in case drilling starts up elsewhere, scouts and local residents will be on high alert throughout the day.
But all in all, for us, it was a bit of an anti-climax. Most protestors had had their morning coffee before they set out, so there was no going back home to sleep. Little did we know that we were in for an unexpected treat:

Thank you George!

George, a greengrocer from Preston Market, arrived with a box of gorgeous fresh fruit: 'I just wanted to show my support'. Rosie, a loyal customer, took delivery of our healthy summer breakfast.


A group of us stayed at the site until around 7am, just to ensure that no activity eventuated. The dozen or so security guards protecting the drill stood alone and disconsolate around the abandoned site:

A long day ahead

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Shocks, lies and videotape

Glorious Fitzoy pool

As I packed my watermelon slices yesterday afternoon and headed off to the Fitzroy Pool precinct, I reflected on just how appropriate it was that our Tunnel Picket workshop should be held there. After all, but for a sustained community protest two decades ago, the historic pool, constructed for the workers of inner-city Melbourne in 1908, would have been demolished.

Pool mural

Approaching the pool, I stopped as usual to admire the new pro-public transport mural, which was commissioned by Yarra council, and adorns the pool complex.
The meeting itself was held in the room where I attend yoga, with our wonderful teacher Andrew, every Saturday morning. On entering, it was all I could do not to drop into a dog pose.
The meeting itself was terrific. The 3 hours flew by as we discussed how the campaign was going, shared our experiences, overted differences, brainstormed directions for the future and applauded our victories. I came away buoyed by the whole event and proud to be part of such a diverse, creative and thoroughly committed group.
So I was utterly shocked to receive an email from Jill this morning. Attached was an article, written by the Herald Sun reporter Alex White, about our meeting.
Normally I never read the Herald Sun because I find its scurrilous reporting of our campaign brings me down. The headline: EW Link protestors admit they are losing the PR war and plan to bring children to future demonstrations was so inaccurate that it took my breath away.
In fact, over the course of the meeting, we had delighted in sharing evidence of how we are winning the hearts and minds of the public. As to the other claim - that we plan to bring children to future pickets - this was simply a suggestion made by a newish member about her intention to bring her own children - a suggestion that nobody else took up.
The other shock for me is that, at what I took to be exclusively a meeting of friends, there was obviously a reporter there in disguise, bent on distorting what she heard to villainise us. Shame Alex White! But it makes sense of what I heard happened a couple of days ago - that the police pushed all the citizen photographers back, allowing only the Herald Sun photographer to keep filming.
I shouldn't be surprised, but it is hard to live with the knowledge of the lengths officialdom and some representatives of the media will go to to destroy opposition and undermine peoples' rights to peaceful protest.
Accompanying the article was a video of a recent picket at the corner of Alexandra and Queens Parades. It was entitled: E W Link Protest Boils Over. Watching it, I found my eyes filling with tears at the injustice of this depiction of us and because I was so moved by the grace, stalwartness and peacefulness of the protestors withstanding the police onslaught. I will finish with two pictures from my record of that day:

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thrills and Spills at Tunnel Picket (Friday)

I like it!

Spotting this poster on a wall on my way to today's picket, I laughed out loud. Given the events in State Parliament yesterday, it seems that Premier Naphine's reign is getting more  and more wobbly; hopefully, he will soon be in no position to silence anyone. Along with yesterday's clever and successful initiative to invite State Ministers to accompany constituents to work via public transport, the antics in Parliament are fuelling optimism. And that is a big thrill.
Maybe Connor, who had to brave a birthday serenade from the Tunnel Picket choir for his 21st birthday today, is in for a very special present. Here he is being congratulated by Corey:

Happy Birthday to Connor!

Luckily, there was other birthday entertainment in store for Connor, apart from us. Corey had brought his guitar and mouth organ, so the rest of us were relegated to bit parts during 'Ring of Fire'. I was delighted when Connor then moved on to 'Union Maid', a regular of the wonderful folk singer and activist, Pete Seeger, who died last week at 94. But perhaps I wasn't the only one who felt a twinge of anxiety when he finished his bracket with Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison'.

Thank you, Corey

The spills included: Yesterday three protestors were intercepted as they attempted to occupy the rig and others were forced back so that the police could line the fence. Which is where they positioned themselves again today.
And, personally, there was a rough moment when walking past St Bridgets, adjacent to the picket site, I noticed the police vehicle below parked in its grounds.

Loitering with intent

My mother, a long-term Carlton resident, attended the primary school in that complex and still goes to Mass weekly at the church you can see behind the police car. She enjoys dinners in the church hall and fairs in its grounds. St Bridget's is very dear to Mum's heart, and she would be apalled to see it used as a car park for police bent on restricting the freedom of their fellow citizens.
But here is one last thrill: Yesterday, anticipating rough treatment, Rosie handed her most precious possession, along with her glasses, to a nearby non-combatant.

Ed and Rosie

This possession was a tea-towel which, as a treasured piece of her family history, has never seen service. In 1998, when her son, Dan, was in pre-school - Teppa Hill in the Northern Territory - a clever teacher decided to collect and convert the children's self portraits into this gift for their parents. And what a perfect gift it was. No wonder Rosie was distressed at the thought that she had lost it. But there was a saviour nearby. And today Ed, a Year 11 student and regular at our picket, was there to return the treasure to a most grateful mother.
I'd like to finish with a request from Keith:
Next Wednesday, 12 February, at 5.30 (for a 6pm start) volunteers are required for door-knocking in the South Parkville area, a neighbourhood whose residents have so far been under-represented at protests. The meeting point for door-knockers will be at the corner of Story Street and Royal Parade. Keith is confident that if sufficient people turn up, they will only be required for an hour or so.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Law & Order at today's Tunnel Picket (Wednesday)

Public Order Response team hard at work

The morning started with an official reaction - or perhaps that should be over-reaction. Ben was escorted by two members of the Public Order Response team to the picket line, where he received a ticket for jay-walking - at 5.45 in the morning, with not a car in sight! Perhaps the fact that he occupied the rig yesterday might have had something to do with this...
The officer signing the ticket chastised me: 'Don't photograph me while I'm writing this!' If Mel hadn't reminded me that I didn't have to obey, I'm pretty sure I would have pointed my camera elsewhere, such is the power of authority. I must say my inclination to defer to officialdom never ceases to shock me.
But there were some good moments today.
We have a new picket member who was particularly emphatic that it was more than time that he joined us:

Jules, our new recruit, with admirer

With a welcome like the one above, I'm sure there will be no holding Jules back.
We might not quite rate the Red Arrows (yet), but today we had our own personal fly over:

Aerial salute

They might not have known they were doing it, but in our opinion the four balloons above were obviously paying homage to the tunnel picketers below. And how apt that our fly-over team, rather than burning oil, was air-powered.
And finally - the protestors displaying placards by the side of the road report more and more honks of support. They concluded that the motorist who called out: 'Mole!' today was not a fan. But I wondered if perhaps he was simply recognising our police code name - 'Operation Burrow'. After all, a single glance at 'Wind in the  Willows' and you will be in no doubt of the rich connection between moles and their beloved burrows.

Greta, a committed advocate of public transport 

We dispersed early today, but before that there was a de-briefing:

Yes. Anthony & Mel are in there - somewhere!

There's one thing for sure - we'll be back again tomorrow.