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May 5, 2021

People Power and the Power of Protest

As a part of Generation Y that is coming of age, protesting on political and environmental issues has never been a big part of our growing up. We always heard the tales from our parents who lived through and participated in the revolutionary protests of the 60’s and 70’s but never felt connected to that rebellious youth culture that they were a part of.

But growing up in a technologically savvy generation that has been handed our freedom and rights that have been so strongly fought for by our ancestors and elders means the power of the protest has slowly lost its importance in our lives, until recently.

bentley blockade people power
Above: The Bentley Blockade in North NSW takes a stand against CSG and has received a lot of support from Generation Y.

In 2014 in Australia alone we have witnessed protests opposing the Western Australian shark cull, March in March day and now the Anti-CSG movement across Australia that has sparked an 8-week plus camp out at the Bentley Blockade on the North Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

The WA shark cull saw over 6,000 people gather at Cottlesloe Beach in early February 2014 in protest of the WA governments new catch and kill policy that controversially catches and kills sharks (supposedly) over 3 metres in length.

While 6,000 protested at Cottlesloe Beach many more followed on beaches all over Australia.

March in March day (obviously held in the month of March 2014) was a protest hosted by a majority of towns Australia wide in protest against Federal Government policies. This protest drew thousands of Australians from different communities and ethnic backgrounds together to take a stand on issues that were important to them.

The Bentley Blockade is an anti-CSG protest in Bentley NSW that has been labeled as the largest most well organised environmental action in the country. A blockade that at the time of this article has been standing for about 2 months and is protesting against the plans that Metgasco has announced to start drilling for tight sands gas (including fracking) at Rosella EOI.

Although at the time of this article being published no political resolution has come from these events, it is guaranteed that these protests have provided these issues with a lot of public exposure via both the media, internet and sense of community. It also shows an increase in protest movements and a younger generation taking part.

Protest movements prove that citizens of all different backgrounds and even ideologies (though sharing common interests) possess the ability to unite, pose a threat to seemingly invulnerable power factions and demand change beyond the mere act of voting once every election.

ruth rosenhekRuth Rosenhek (pictured right) is a veteran protestor, an international environmental and social justice activist, educator and co-director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Lismore. Ruth has years of experience with protest, becoming a full-time environmental activist in 1997 with a masters degree in Organisation and Management. She is in an expert on the importance of protests.

Ruth is a big part of the Bentley Blockade and is an integral part of keeping the environmental protest going which is being praised as one of the best organised environmental protests held in Australia.

“You do this because you have to stand up for what is right,” explains Ruth.

“As depressing as the Earth’s ecological situation seems to be, it’s an absolute joy to be working to protect the Earth. I can’t imagine any other way of living that would make me happier and more importantly it fills me with deep satisfaction.”

This sense of satisfaction of standing up for what is right is spreading throughout Generation Y like wildfire. There is an evident shift in young people voicing their opinions on some of the political decisions effecting Australia and the world. With our savvy technology skills and the power of the internet we can now show up on the front line or a protest and keep the debate alive online.

wa shark cull
Above: Thousands gather to protest the shark cull at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia. Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper Source: News Limited

The Shark cull has a current hashtag on instagram of #NOWASHARKCULL which has thousands of posts. Funnily enough the primary age group who use instagram is 18-29 year olds.

Twitter again another significant social media platform for generation Y, has thousand upon thousands of tweets sporting the hashtag #nosharkcull. Supported by celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Sir Richard Branson.

So it shows that combining technology and the traditional acts of protest can and do work hand in hand.

“As an activist, technology is important for communication, networking and staying up to date with everything that is happening,” explains Ruth when asked about the difference that internet communication has made on the power of the protest.

“But I got burnt out sitting at a computer for so long as an activist. Coming together with the community here (at Bentley Blockade) is refreshing and fun. It’s exciting, inspiring and challenging and beautiful.”

“Being here on the ground with the other protestors has superseded the computer, but in the same instance tools such as social media make this very event possible.”

Perhaps the future isn’t so dull? If the future generation is well educated on the importance of protest, and the concept of staying technology savvy then we can maintain and empahsise the importance of community and the difference that protest movements can make.

But as Ruth advises “keep these protests peaceful, always keep it peaceful. That’s the main thing.”

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