The climate activists responsible for bringing large parts of Sydney to a complete standstill in recent days intend to take their protests nationwide.
A Blockade Australia spokesperson believes the message is “cutting through” with the general public and said a national expansion was on the cards after the next three days of protests are completed.
In an interview with The New Daily, the group’s spokesperson described their actions as “the most important thing we can be doing” and revealed the group was inspired by direct action that shut down coal mines.
Here’s what you need to know about the group and its aims.
Who is Blockade Australia?
Blockade Australia functions as the group’s name and a call to action.
It describes itself as a network of people passionate about climate justice – and it will do whatever it takes to bring the topic of the climate crisis into public discussion.
The spokesperson, who requested anonymity, said Blockade Australia was formed in early 2021.
“Blockade Australia began early 2021, when people were getting together, looking at the political and ecological context, and seeing and recognising the severity of a climate crisis,” they said.
The group was inspired by the direct action that had been used to halt coal mines and various extractive projects, and wanted to adopt that attitude to “shut down” critical areas such as Sydney’s CBD.
What are its goals?
According to Blockade Australia’s statement of purpose, it aims to take action that “cannot be ignored” by the general public or relevant governments.
“Blockade Australia is a co-ordinated response that aims to develop a culture of effective resistance through strategic direct action,” it reads.
“This requires stepping outside of the rules and regulations which maintain and protect Australia’s destructive operations.”
Blockade Australia has taken a similar route to Extinction Rebellion, which caused havoc in the Melbourne CBD when protesters glued themselves to roads and blocked tram tracks.
On Monday morning, one Blockade Australia protester made headlines when they used their car to block the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, using a bike lock to attach themselves to the vehicle’s steering wheel.
It’s extreme action – and certainly disruptive. But the spokesperson said the group hoped the interruptions caused by the week-long protests would prompt the public to recognise the severity of its cause.
“We’re wanting the public to recognise Australia’s inadequate response and to recognise Blockade Australia, which is taking direct action in a sustained, centralised, organised way.”
The protests intrigued the public, with the term ‘Blockade Australia’ becoming the third-top Google search term on Monday.
When asked if the group thought its message was being received, the spokesperson was optimistic.
“For many people, it does seem to be cutting through and coming across positively,” they said.
“And there has been a big shift that I’ve personally noticed within the environmental movement more recently, and within the media, in the way they’re framing Blockade Australia and framing direct action.”
What makes the protests so controversial?
Blockade Australia’s demonstrations have been met with fury by Sydney commuters, New South Wales police and the state government.
Unlike previous climate protests, this week’s were not organised in co-operation with police or relevant authorities.
In a shocking turn of events on Monday, one member of the public drove their car through the group’s protests in the CBD. Fortunately, no one was injured.
NSW Police Minister Paul Toole lashed out at the protesters, calling them “professional pests” and saying they should “go and get a real job”.
Premier Dominic Perrottet echoed his sentiments, calling the protesters “dumb, divisive, disrespectful” in a 2GB interview.
“They’re bloody idiots who will face the full force of the law,” the Premier said.
Before the protest, the state government ramped up anti-protesting laws, increased fines and raided the group’s camp in Sydney to deter Blockade Australia from taking to the streets.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested since Monday, including the Sydney Harbour Tunnel protester, with many remaining in police custody and facing jail time.
The spokesperson said the police’s efforts would do little to slow them down.
“You know, getting climate action done is a very important, real job. Probably the most important thing we can be doing,” they said.
“They changed the laws in anticipation of this mobilisation, it seems … They’re gonna do what they can to stop us [from taking] action. But we can’t afford to stop fighting for a better world.”
What are the group’s future plans?
So far, the group’s protests have been limited to NSW.
But the movement’s spokesperson revealed it wants to take its demonstrations nationwide.
They said although the group has no concrete plans, there’s “definitely been those considerations”.
“There definitely will be ways for people from all states to engage in the project and to get involved,” they said.
“That’s definitely part of the plans, but there’s no specific actions [in place].”