Climate action protesters spark chaos in Sydney's city centre, 11 people arrested

More than 100 demonstrators from Blockade Australia sparked chaotic scenes in Sydney, on June 27, 2022. PHOTO: BLOCKADE AUSTRALIA/FACEBOOK

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - A group of protesters calling for radical action to cut Australia's carbon emissions shut one of Sydney's major roads on Monday (June 27) morning, the beginning of what they've said will be a "week of resistance" in the country's biggest city.

More than 100 demonstrators from the climate protest group Blockade Australia sparked chaotic scenes in Sydney's central business district on Monday during the morning commute, when they blocked major roads including the Harbour Tunnel.

Eleven people were arrested, including the woman who police said allegedly put a bicycle lock around her neck and the steering wheel of a vehicle that was blocking all city-bound lanes. The vehicle has since been removed.

In videos from the scene, posted to social media by the group, activists said they were taking action because the world was "in a climate emergency" and Australia wasn't doing enough to stop it.

"Ecosystem collapse is now, it's happening now. It's happening now and Australia is blocking it. And we're here to block Australia," one activist said on the Blockade Australia Facebook.

While the demonstration cleared within an hour, the group has promised a "week of resistance" across Sydney.

In recent years, Australian state governments have introduced tough laws designed to punish climate action protesters such as Extinction Rebellion who attempt to highlight the climate emergency by disrupting public transport and business activities.

Under new laws passed by the state government of New South Wales, climate protesters who demonstrate without permission on public roads, rail lines, tunnels or bridges can face fines of A$22,000 (S$21,096) and as long as two years in jail.

Ms Sophie McNeill, Australia researcher at Human Rights Watch, described the new laws as "vindictive" in a statement on June 22, saying they violate protesters' "basic rights."

Climate change is a contentious issue in Australia which is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis and is the world’s top exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas.  

Under a new Labor government, Australia early this month raised the amount of carbon emissions it aims to cut by 2030, bringing the country more in line with other developed economies’ Paris 
climate accord commitments.  

Climate experts have said global warming is likely to make extreme weather more frequent in Australia, where the last three years have seen devastating bushfires and frequent flooding.

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