I found the direct action at the ANZ inspiring and necessary. Here is a snapshot of what a non-violent direct action can feel like.
At the briefing the previous night, we asked questions, especially about arrest, and ran through what we’d do during the action. Snacks, goodwill and optimism were abundant and this theme continued the next morning.
At about 8 am a wall of coal sacks blocked the doors. We linked arms and sang songs. Others handed out leaflets to explain the purpose of the civil disobedience or spoke to media, and buses tooted their support for our divestment message on a prominent banner, with our oil spattered climbers standing on the awning above. Police were present, but not threatening or intimidating towards the main group of protestors.
I ended up sitting next to another doctor. We discussed how emergencies require urgent responses. If you had a heart attack in front of me, I wouldn’t tell you to come back in 2 weeks if your heart attack didn’t feel better. Likewise, urgent direct action is necessary for the health emergency of climate change. It felt good to be doing the right thing.
ANZ were keen to avoid media coverage. Some customers wanted to get in, but even an older couple who needed to get arrangements for travel sorted that morning told us they supported what we were doing, and were able to get what they needed after some discussion.
By 11 am the lights inside went off, a sign saying they’d closed up for the day was stuck on the door and the remaining staff trailed out through a side exit. Our roof climbers with the banner came down, and we sang waiata of support as they were issued with trespass notices, which was all done in a civilised and friendly manner.
The day was a success, no one was arrested or hurt, and we didn’t have to use the fortitude we had built up the previous night, nor the learned skills of dealing with forcible removal.
Business as usual cannot continue, and breakfree2016 actions around the world coordinated by 350 made that clear. There are risks involved, of arrest, of having force used against you, of upsetting people, and perhaps most worrying of all, of this not producing the changes we urgently need.
This event gave me courage to engage in similar actions again. Between courage and hope, we may have all we need to produce transformation.
“The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.”