In the middle of 2019, Carmen’s 16-year-old daughter noticed an Extinction Rebellion event on Facebook. She had been concerned about what was happening to our world and asked her mum if she could go.
Carmen was a busy working mum and although she was aware of climate change, she had been too busy ‘doing life’ to give it as much attention as she wanted. But her daughter was determined to go and so Carmen agreed to go with her and check it out.
The talk by XRWA was called ‘Heading for Extinction’. This two-hour talk pulls no punches. It gives you the facts straight, as hard and heavy as they are. And then offer you some solutions by joining the rebellion to draw attention to the tragic trajectory the climate emergency is on. Listening to the data delivered that night meant that Carmen could no longer ignore it, but it also gave her an outlet for all the anger and grief she was feeling along with others who were also driven to make change.
Extinction Rebellion’s primary form of protest is civil disobedience. In the glossary of non-violence by the King Centre, civil disobedience is defined as ‘the act of openly disobeying an unjust, immoral or unconstitutional law as a matter of conscience, and accepting the consequences, including submitting to imprisonment if necessary, to protest an injustice.’ That night Carmen discovered that civil disobedience was within her reach. It was the only way to take back her power as an individual and stand up to the government who make so many planet-threatening decisions on her behalf.
The first time she got arrested was at an action called the Festival of Love & Rage in November 2020. The plan was to take over the Malcom St bridge that connects Parliament House to the city and then hold a festival on the bridge, turning the grey road into colour, music and dance.
Extinction Rebellion actions maybe rebellious in nature, but they are well-planned, closely monitored events. There are teams in place with coloured sashes for visibility, for example, the Wellness Team, the Police Liaison Team, Marshalls and Media & Messaging. These support people make sure that all rebels’ mental and physical health are looked after, that legal procedures are followed, and events are reported accurately. Rebels are buddied up, so no one feels alone and have support and encouragement if needed.
Carmen had discussed her plans with her two daughters in the previous week, checking that they were comfortable with her decision. Of course, they gave her their full approval and Carmen made sure they were with trusted adults on the day, while they were there to cheer their mum on.
Unfortunately, the police stopped the disruption where Carmen and four others had planned to superglue themselves to the road. Unwilling to be cowed, the rebels stood in another road but as Carmen went to superglue her feet, a policeman tackled her and pushed her off the road. This unnecessarily forceful reaction resulted in a move on notice. Carmen was disappointed. She had gone there that day to be arrested, to disrupt the flow of traffic and urge the public to notice that we need to do something—to force the end of CO2 emissions, to quit fossil fuel, to give people the power to make decisions.
Carmen checked on her kids who had witnessed the police interaction to tell them she was OK. Not giving up, she wanted to run them by her next plan—to go in again and sit in the middle of a busy city road. This time she and the other rebels succeeded. They managed to take over the intersection of Malcom St and Harvest Terrace while the other protesters had gathered at Florence Hummerston Reserve. For around ten minutes, the police negotiated with her heavily, obviously not wanting to arrest someone so clearly standing (or sitting!) for what is right, and in doing so protecting her family too. But Carmen held fast and ended up being arrested.
A few hours later, Carmen was released. Though it was hard to watch their mum be led away by police, the girls are proud of Carmen and support her commitment to making the world a habitable place for their future. They both attend rallies, actions and talks and persuade their friends to come too. Carmen and her girls know that we can’t wait to act, the time is now. Carmen has since been arrested three times.
“I’m a normal person, not a hero. I don’t have any special courage. What it’s going to take is for more every day, normal people to engage. With XRWA, I can take my power back. I have no other choice. The system is torturing us, it is beyond broken.”
Fun fact: Carmen hates Christmas! But in another action in December 2020, she stood in the streets of Perth singing Extinction Rebellion songs like ‘Merry Crisis’. She got arrested dressed as Mrs Claus. Carmen refuses to let personal likes or dislikes get in the way of causing disruption.
Carmen is a girl guide leader. She lives her life by their mission statement ‘to empower girls and young women to discover their potential as leaders of the world’. She volunteers her time each week because she knows it is critically important to build the next generation into strong and caring leaders. She takes action on the climate crisis because as a girl guide, she promised to be true to herself and make choices for a better world.
“I encourage all women to look inside themselves and find the courage to make choices that create a more thoughtful, understanding and sustainable world.”
Carmen takes on many roles in XRWA, she is Internal Coordinator of a working group, she paints banners, puts up posters as well as putting her body on the line at actions. She is willing to sit herself on the roads to cause disruption in every action. She claims sitting is her talent! If more people came to help with the myriad of small, yet important skills that support XRWA arrestables, then she would do it every day. She now works part-time so she can put more time and energy into the cause.