Climate activists who caused commuter mayhem in Sydney’s CBD on Monday morning with their latest swoop in protest should expect to “knock on your door”, NSW Police have said.
New South Wales Police have issued a stern warning to activists thinking of protesting illegally and to dozens of protesters who escaped arrest following chaotic scenes in Sydney’s CBD on Monday morning.
Blockade Australia kicked off the protest activity from 8am, with around 100 protesters causing heavy delays by blocking roads in the heart of the city and the Sydney Harbor Bridge tunnel.
On Monday afternoon, Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan confirmed that 10 activists had been arrested and charged with obstructing major roads and said police were reviewing CCTV footage and social media videos to apprehend more of those involved. .
“We need the public’s help to help us identify those involved and to help us prevent further illegal protest activity over the next few days and into the week,” he said.
“Expect a knock on your door, we’ll come for you to be arrested.”
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The public has been reminded that the police should be made aware of lawful protest activity, with Deputy Commissioner Dunstan issuing a further warning to those considering joining other Blockade Australia protests during the week.
“I encourage those who continue to take part in this unlawful protest activity to reconsider that the police will continue to be in force in the coming days as this group continues its unlawful disruption of Sydney,” he said.
The group began their protest in the heart of the city before heading to Sydney Harbor Bridge, but Deputy Commissioner Dunstan said the ‘erratic’ nature meant it was difficult for police to set up shop in front the group and to make arrests on the spot.
Assistant Commissioner Dunstan said he was concerned about public safety as the protest took place in a densely populated area.
“The behavior of this group was nothing less than criminal activity, throwing bikes, throwing garbage cans, throwing other objects in the way of the police, in the way of the media, in the way of innocent members of the public passing by will not be tolerated,” he said.
“It’s unbelievably dangerous (sic) not only are they throwing things on the roadway, the woman who stopped this car at the entrance to the harbor tunnel put herself in danger, put members of the public in danger and put his rescuers in danger, this is incredibly dangerous, unacceptable behavior.
Deputy Commissioner Dunstan admitted NSW Police did not know where the next protest would take place, but said officers would be dispatched across the city with a view to limiting further protests.
NSW Police Minister Paul Toole warned the rebels that “the full force of the law” would be meted out to them after the chaotic scenes.
“A lot of people are just trying to get to work, people are just trying to get their kids to school and people are trying to make a decent and honest living,” he told the Sky host News Australia, Danica De Giorgio.
He called the protesters “professional parasites” who were “ultimately not helping their cause” by infuriating the public with their actions.
“What they really are, they are nothing less than economic vandals and this kind of action and behavior will not be tolerated in the state,” Toole added.
“And let’s be very clear, these (people) are not sign carriers, they are nothing less than professional pests.
“They don’t care about people’s daily lives, they don’t care about people trying to make a living on a daily basis and that kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Protesters could be fined $22,000 or up to two years in prison for unlawfully disrupting public roads, train tracks, tunnels, bridges and industrial areas.
No injuries were reported at the protest despite a woman parking in the two southbound lanes at the entrance to the Sydney Harbor Tunnel in North Sydney and a car driving through a crowd of people in the city.
The woman, who identified herself as a 22-year-old Mali from the Northern Rivers area of Lismore, locked herself to the wheel with a bicycle lock halting traffic in the tunnel just after 8.45am.
She went on a live social media broadcast to deliver her message with motorists and police spotted in the background yelling at her to get out of the white sedan.
“I can’t be quiet anymore. I saw a world of devastation unfold,” she said in the 10-minute video posted on their Facebook page.
“I’ve felt… complete and utter grief this year as a direct result of climate change. I don’t want to have to be here, it’s for all of us. It’s pretty overwhelming.
“This is where the violence landed on this continent and the destruction of the country began. Since then, Sydney has become the political and economic capital of Australia.
“It makes perfect sense to start at the guts of this system and disrupt its most important points.”
Officers eventually pulled the woman out of the car and arrested her. A tow truck was seen removing the vehicle.
The Sydney Harbor Tunnel reopened shortly after 9am and motorists were warned to take extra time with traffic on the Warringah Freeway and the Gore Hill Freeway.