the night before we locked ourselves onto a coal loader i lay with a sleeping bag over my head, angry and tired to the point of muteness. sick of meetings, of planning and car troubles and people, scared and almost over it. we sleep all together on the floor and I try not to think too much in case I change my mind.
early early in the morning we pile in cars, with large metal tubes and small chains around our ready wrists. we drive to kooragang coal port as dawn threatens pale at the edges of the sky. at the entry to the port a streetlight reveals a car with police prop-legged around it, their feet in it’s open doors. i’m so scared our plans are about to stretch too thin and break. we get confused and drive past the site three times, u-turning in front of the police. i want to not be here now, i want to wake up when its over.
finally we pull up beside the fence and tumble out of the car. we go over the fence one by one. scrabbling with no foothold. an almost laugh. a hand scraped on barbed wire. we pass the heavy bits of pipe through the fence and walk quick across the bitumen together. no one comes to grab us, no one drags us down from the fence like i kept seeing in my head. we climb yellow metal steps, onto the machine that loads coal into ships, coal for burning in places distant. press with a flat hand all the big red emergency stop buttons, the conveyor belt winds slowly still and the sirens start. we keep frantically locking ourselves to bits of conveyor belt, changing our minds, changing place, and repeating. everyone else is calm now but i’m not. finally we are settled, feet dangling, knees brushing conveyor-belt rubber. we are locked with bits of pipe and now its easy, and i’m not scared anymore.
the machine is almost beautiful. draped with yellow lights in the almost fog and the sea sitting blackly close. the sun rises over the harbour and the cold air doesn’t sting. lib and me are wearing bike helmets. libby’s helmet is back to front. we are the hottest people ever. probably.
finally they find us. it’s a little awkard. some of them are condescending, tell us all the lies they said they’d tell. “this machine has been turned off for months. you’re not stopping anything.”
“we know it was on when we came,” i say. “whatevs,” i add. sort of undermybreath, sort of byaccident. lib laughs.
Dwayne comes and chats with us. he’s quiet and friendly and curious, it’s his first time with protesters. he tells us to be careful, follow the ritual and we’ll be okay.
the police are grumpy and not impressed. we smile politely, thank them, and refuse to do anything they ask. we wont lock off, thank you. we understand your concern, thankyou. good morning. etc. etc. they search libby haphazardly. out of her overall pockets come fifteen dirty tissues. meanwhile we stuff our faces quietly with chocolate. they lock off our friends. then they take apart the conveyor belt we are attached to. we apologise to the worker. he says its fine, smiling, he has nothing better to do.
we are no longer attached to anything, but the policeman is confused, and asks us to unlock ourselves. we point out we aren’t actually attached to anything. they make us walk down the steps. we stay locked together, yelling at oli that we love him, in case the police are being mean. finally they ask us to please unlock ourselves from the pipe. ok. then we take our helmets off. they tell us to put them back on.
they forget to search me, and put me in the paddywagon with a bag full of chocolate and an epi-pen. they recognise my novocastrian school jumper and chat with me about uni. i am lucky, processed by the nice cop, an ex youth worker. he makes sure we are ok, and never leaves us on our own. lib and sally dance in the back of the paddy wagon while they process me. they ask tony to put his number in front of his face so he does. the police man calls him a dickhead.
finally they are done and we get to ride home in an APEC bus. just the five of us, giggling up the back. it looks like my old school bus plus bars. it probably is. they take us back to camp, like school children, excited and back from a school excursion. a day well spent, and finally over.