Making martyrs?

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison’s threats to clamp down on environmental activism won’t curtail the antics of climate campaigners say members of Perth’s newly-formed Red Rebel Brigade, warning it may push some towards “martyrdom”.

The brigade is a theatrical offshoot of Extinction Rebellion and has been appearing around the Perth metro area since October.

Influenced by Brazil’s Theatre of the Oppressed, Japan’s Butoh Theatre and the humanitarian protests of The Invisible Theatre of Iran, the troupe is completely silent, with members wearing red robes and painting their faces white.

They’re not as keen to get arrested as their ER brethren, says Sally (who didn’t provide a last name), preferring to tell police they attend protests such as last month’s Flood the City in order to quell “difficult emotions” on both sides.

• Red Rebel Brigade walked through Perth’s King’s Park Botanic Gardens last Sunday November 10. Photo by Miles Tweedie

But they use dramatic gestures to echo their frustration at Australia’s glacial response to reducing carbon emissions and share XR’s aims of change and regenerative culture.

Sally, whose background is in theatre, clowning and higher education, says the prime minister’s threats to outlaw secondary protests and shareholder action is worrying.

“It’s an example of an authoritarian crackdown,” she says.

“If protesters are demonised some may be pushed to martyrdom.

“Political protest is a form of political communication essential to the maintenance of democracy – this has been ruled by the High Court.

Fellow performer Tara saw the effects of violent confrontation play out for years in her home country, Bosnia, and wanted a different path in tackling climate change.

“Red Rebels have a confronting presence,” she said.

“They bring stillness and space where one can rethink things and contemplate them on a deeper level.


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