Climate protesters have brought Adelaide’s streets to a standstill after abseiling off the side of a bridge while rallying against a fossil fuel conference.
A group from Extinction Rebellion gathered around protester Meme Thorne, 69, as she suspended herself from the side of the Morphett St bridge, bringing traffic and trams to a standstill in the area.
They were protesting against the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference that was being held at the nearby Adelaide Convention Centre.
Extinction Rebellion SA said the protest “aims to call out APPEA’s clear intention to expand gas & oil exploration and production” amid the climate crisis.
Ms Thorne was suspended from the bridge for around 90 minutes before being removed by authorities.
She was taken down in a cherry picker by police before being taken into custody at around 9am.
SA Police said they arrested a 69-year-old woman for obstructing a public place.
The state and federal government’s “half-hearted” response to climate change prompted Ms Thorne to take action, she said.
“APPEA and its billionaires enjoy their pots of gold at our expense. We say they are not welcome here in South Australia, nor anywhere on the planet,” she said.
“I am prepared to take direct action to deliver this message to the government and to all the fossil fools at APPEA: We have been left dangling in the air for far too long. The time to cut all ties to fossil fuels is now. Keep the carbon in the ground!”
Extinction Rebellion SA has apologised for the inconvenience that the protest caused but said it was needed as “our leadership is not acting” on climate change.
“What is mostly happening here is disruption, which we understand is inconvenient,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“But I think every Australian understands that floods and droughts and bushfires are also very inconvenient and they are putting many more lives at risk all around our country.”
Energy and Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis slammed the way the protests were carried out and said they would have the opposite effect on getting people to support climate change efforts.
“These childish stunts do nothing but turn people off the hard task of decarbonisation,” he said on ABC Radio Adelaide.
“They’ve chosen to protest on a feed of road that leads to Royal Adelaide Hospital. There are people who are probably going in for day surgery, change of shift, let alone the way ambulances are getting in ans out, and the inconvenience that they are putting on the people of South Australia is by far probably the most insulting thing that they’ve done.
“They’re welcome to go outside the conference, and we’ll accommodate their protest. They have a right to protest ,but what they’re doing now is quite frankly reckless and they should know better.”
APPEA chief executive Samantha McCulloch said the organisation respected people’s “right to protest legally” but that the protests were misguided.
“…the protests this week are protesting a conference focused on climate change action and emissions reduction technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen,” Ms McCulloch said.
“They are also protesting against an industry critical to achieving net zero and the health of the South Australian and national economy – delivering over $16bn revenue to governments this year, employing 80,000 people and powering millions of homes and business across Australia.”