On Tuesday this week Rosemary Penwarden was arrested in Wellington for using quick-drying cement to fix her hands to a major roadway in Kilbirnie. It took the police a while to chip her and two others off the road.
She is part of the Restore Passenger Rail group which has successfully kept public attention on climate change for weeks on end with disruptive protests which have blocked roads and demanded serious action on climate change. Their courage has been in the finest traditions of peaceful civil disobedience protest.
Rosemary has done a short video which is on the Restore Passenger Rail facebook page.
Rosemary was charged with “endangering transport” – a charge which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail. (Unfortunately, there is no charge of “endangering the planet through greenhouse gas emissions” for the likes of SUV drivers, trucking company CEOs or airline chief executives)
It’s not the first time she’s been arrested in Restore Passenger Rail protests but the first time the police have opposed bail and she has been remanded in custody to her next court appearance on later in September.
By elevating the charges from obstruction of a roadway to endangering transport and by keeping people locked up the state forces hope to break the group and deter anyone else from daring to repeat these actions.
Rosemary’s situation is a reminder that progressive change, even change desperately needed to prevent an existential crisis for humanity, will always be vigorously opposed by the 1% and their political representatives. The great machinery of state which is geared to siphoning off vast sums of unearned income into the pockets of the corporate and the comfortable must be allowed to continue unhindered.
For this reason most political responses to the Restore Passenger Rail protests have been hostile. National’s transport spokesperson Simeon Brown for example has attacked the group for “disrupting ordinary citizens trying to go about their lives” and says the protests are “doing more harm than good” to the cause of climate change.
Simeon Brown’s self-righteousness is a bit rich for a party which is raiding funds from all future Emissions Trading Scheme revenues for its tax cuts policy. Those funds are currently earmarked for fighting climate change but that will no longer be the case under National. Does it get any more appalling than that?
Doesn’t that cynical abuse of the Emission Trading Scheme’s income underline just why the tactics used by the Restore Passenger Rail are essential if we are to get any meaningful action on climate change?
And while I’m at it, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told that breaking the law with non-violent civil disobedience protest action would “undermine the cause” I’d be very rich. The simple truth is that the opposite is the case.
We need a lot more Rosemary Penwardens – thousands of them – are you up to it?
Rosemary Penwarden is sand in the gears of free-market capitalism. All respect to her courage and her quick-dry cement.