A climate change protestor who scaled a freight train in Marrickville on Friday morning has said that she took action because “nothing else is working”, as NSW Transport Minister David Elliott warned that harsher penalties could soon be in place for people choosing to “vandalise our economy”.
Protestors from Blockade Australia, a group that seeks to drive climate action by coordinating “mobilisations at economic bottlenecks and centres of political power”, have staged unauthorised protests across Sydney this week, including shutting down operations at Port Botany three times on Friday, scaling a train in Marrickville, and causing disruptions in Tempe, prompting fury from NSW government and police officials.
It comes as another Blockade Australia protestor, 29-year-old Wenzel Auch, was arrested on Saturday at Port Botany, marking the organisation’s eighth action over the past five days.
After climate change activists caused disruptions at Port Botany for a third consecutive day on Thursday, penalties of up to $22,000 or two years’ jail time were introduced for any protestors who disrupts any bridge or tunnel across Greater Sydney. Attorney-General Mark Speakman said that the previous fine of $2,200 was not deterring protestors, likening it to a “small license fee to pay to cause millions of dollars of havoc”.
On Friday morning, a 62-year-old woman from Wingham on the Mid North Coast, who identified as Sharon, scaled a freight train near the intersection of Meeks and Victoria roads in Marrickville, causing emergency services to be called after a crowd had gathered in front of the train. Sharon was arrested by officers from the Inner West Police Area Command and was taken to Mascot Police Station, where her charges included entering inclosed land without lawful excuse and obstructing railway locomotive or rolling stock.
In a statement released by Blockade Australia, Sharon said that she “took this action because complacency in a crisis of this scale will lead us to annihilation”, adding that “nothing else is working”.
Earlier on Friday, a 25-year-old woman who had suspended herself from a pole at a freight line over a canal near Qantas Drive, Tempe, was removed from the area by the South Sydney Police Area Command and the Police Rescue, and was also taken to Mascot Station following her arrest. Charges included remaining on inclosed land without lawful excuse and failing to comply with direction.
In response to the protests, Mr Elliott has said that he will be lobbying cabinet next week to “ensure that we have much, much tighter laws and penalties” for action that generates major disruptions across the city.
Blockade Australia said that their mobilisations create “political leverage that is needed to make real change”, adding that “this requires stepping outside of the rules and regulations which maintain and protect Australia’s destructive operations”.
NSW Police establishes strike force for Blockade Australia protests
Deputy Premier Paul Toole. Photo: NSW Parliament.
In response to the protests, NSW Police established Strike Force Guard on Thursday, which would target the Botany Bay region and “ensure police are one step ahead of the protestors”, according to Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole.
This is despite operations being shut down at Port Botany three times on Friday, with a 26-year-old man breaking in after scaling multiple barbed-wire fences after using the bordering railway tracks to access the port. The protestor was given multiple charges, including remaining in a water-side restricted zone when not authorised and refusing to comply with direction.
Earlier this week, federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled the visas of two Germans involved with the protests, saying that “we have zero tolerance for temporary visa holders committing crimes in Australia”.