Two women in their 60s have been arrested after gluing themselves to a pile of bikes on an Adelaide street, in what appears to be the first wave of Extinction Rebellion’s plan to disrupt the upcoming return of the Tour Down Under – and, more specifically, to highlight the apparent ‘greenwashing’ activities of its main sponsor, Santos.
The two women, aged 67 and 68 and dressed in cycling clothing, were charged by police with unreasonably obstructing the path of a driver or pedestrian after blocking a lane outside oil and gas producer Santos’ HQ for half an hour, ABC reports.
The protesters also covered themselves and the bikes in fake oil, which symbolically led to the front door of Santos’ building.
💥 BREAKING 💥
Rebels have glued themselves to a pile of bicycles chained together outside Santos HQ. A trail of fake oil has been poured from the building over the bicycle stack and onto rebels.
— Extinction Rebellion Australia (@XRebellionAus) January 12, 2023
Today’s protest is the first of what the South Australia branch of Extinction Rebellion hopes will be a series of disruptions to the Tour Down Under, which returns to the international cycling calendar this weekend after a three-year Covid-related absence.
Last year, the group targeted the race’s little brother, the Santos Festival of Cycling, to protest a company which they believe is “driving global emissions to tipping points from which there is no return.”
Gas and oil producer Santos, which has sponsored the Tour Down Under since 2010, is one of Australia’s worst greenhouse gas emitting companies. Its status as the race’s naming rights sponsor has long been viewed as one of cycling’s most egregious forms of ‘greenwashing’ (which is saying something at the moment).
However, when asked by Procycling magazine in late 2021 about the race’s relationship with Santos and its environmental impact, Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed said: “While none of our sponsors have any direct involvement in the organization or running of [the Tour Down Under]we value these partnerships as they allow the race to continue to grow and elevate the event to a world-class offering.”
Extinction Rebellion protestors have glued themselves to bikes outside the Santos building ahead of the Tour Down Under, while holding signs with the message “your gas is killing us”.
— 9News Adelaide (@9NewsAdel) January 12, 2023
While insisting that they are not against cycling or bike races – just the companies seeking to profit or launder their image from them – Extinction Rebellion’s South Australian spokesman, Chris Johnson, said that the Australian government should be taxing companies like Santos more, rather than striking sponsorship deals with them.
“I think people are smart enough to understand that we are targeting Santos at this race, and if we’re there with a presence and we have banners that say ‘dump Santos’ or ‘disrupt Santos’, then it’s pretty clear that we’ re targeting Santos,” he said.
On the other hand, South Australia’s tourism minister Zoe Bettison described plans to disrupt the Tour Down Under as “galling”, and claimed that Santos was committed to achieving net zero emissions.
“Think people are free to share their concerns; the disruption is what is outraging me,” she said.
“We’ve seen them hold up traffic before, we’ve seen them protest this way, but why are you going to do this at an event that is such an important event for South Australia?”
Maybe the tourism minister is just a massive Chris Froome fan…