The New South Wales deputy premier has told climate change protesters to “go and get a real job” after police made ten arrests across Sydney.
Blockade Australia protesters were among 50 to 60 activists who converged on Hyde Park at about 8 am on Monday before marching towards the harbor, chanting, playing drums, with some pulling down signs, dragging wheelie bins onto the road, and blocking intersections.
One of those arrested was a 22-year-old woman who allegedly locked herself to the steering wheel of her car and blocked the harbor tunnel.
Blockade Australia live-streamed a video of the car as it blocked all citybound lanes of traffic for about an hour.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the protesters had no concern for the public and had spent the morning throwing milk crates, garbage bins, and other rubbish throughout the city center.
“I would say this to the protesters: Go and get a real job,” he said.
“Go and talk to somebody who’s been delayed getting to work today.”
The protests began at 8 am in Hyde Park. The group said their aim was “to disrupt the political and economic systems of Australia which are driving climate destruction”, with a group converging at about 8 am at Hyde Park.
At one point, a motorist attempted to drive through the protests, hitting activists.
Activists were met with a large police presence, including officers on horses and in helicopters.
Protesters dispersed when police stopped them at the George and Bridge streets intersection, blocking access to the harbor tunnel for an hour from 8.15 am.
All traffic was diverted via the Harbour Bridge, and vehicles were backed up for several kilometers.
NSW police allege the woman who blocked the tunnel put a bicycle lock around her neck and attached herself to the steering wheel before being removed from the car and arrested.
Speaking of the protest generally, Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan told reporters: “the throwing of bicycles, the throwing of garbage bins, the throwing of other items in the path of police, in the path of media, in the path of innocent members of the public just walking by, will not be tolerated and cannot be by the people of NSW.”
Blockade Australia has previously held disruptive protests on the Harbour Bridge, the Spit Bridge, and Port Botany.
Dunstan said the haphazard nature of Blockade Australia’s tactics proved troublesome for police before arrests were made.
“The group this morning was highly unorganized and erratic, moving throughout the CBD in an unstructured format. It was difficult to get ahead of them,” he said.
Labor leader Chris Minns said it was not sustainable for the protesters to bring Sydney to a standstill routinely.
“We may have had women waiting to get to emergency departments, birthing centers to give birth to children or [other] emergencies,” Minns said Monday.
He added that the Albanese Labor government had committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and had ambitious interim targets for 2030.
Police were out in force in the city center and had a heavy presence on the Harbour Bridge after the group flagged a resurgence in their activities last week.
Blockade Australia said it would continue to cause disruptions all week.
“Disruption to the infrastructure of Australia’s project of exploitation is essential in cutting through the climate denial that this system survives off,” it said.
A spokeswoman for the group said Sydney had been where Australia’s destruction of the continent had been most intense.
“Our collective survival rests on organized opposition and the use of direct strategic action to stand against this project of destruction.”
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Earlier this year, the NSW government passed legislation to crack down on illegal protesters following several arrests of climate change activists blocking traffic and access to ports.
Protesters face a maximum penalty of two years in jail and $22,000 fines for disrupting traffic or preventing road access.
The legislation also created new offenses targeting people blocking access to major facilities such as ports and railways.