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Blockade Australia: Climate activists halting traffic do NOT care about fines and jail terms

Huge fines and hefty jail terms ushered in to deter protests are unlikely to stop climate activists from bringing Sydney rush hour to a halt, a lawyer says.

Environmentalists from Blockade Australia caused commuter chaos in the city on Monday and Tuesday, with dozens of protesters marching through the CBD, blocking the entrance to the Sydney Harbor Tunnel.

The high-profile group’s antics — including blocking coal ports, bridges and fossil fuel terminals — prompted the NSW government to enact tough anti-protest laws in April.

Under the new sentences, protesters face a maximum penalty of two years in prison and $22,000 in fines for disrupting traffic or blocking access on roads.

Australia blockade caused chaos for commuters on Monday after a protester in a white hatchback blocked the Sydney Harbor Tunnel and locked herself on her handlebars with a bicycle lock (pictured)

Australia blockade caused chaos for commuters on Monday after a protester in a white hatchback blocked the Sydney Harbor Tunnel and locked herself on her handlebars with a bicycle lock (pictured)

But as the group continues “massive disruptions” to traffic for a week, the Australian Lawyers Alliance’s national criminal justice spokesperson, Greg Barns SC, has warned the sanctions will not curb protest activity.

“People who protest are generally happy to risk being jailed or fined large sums of money for being motivated by the cause,” he said. ABC news

‘You have to ask the question, ‘Why are you passing this legislation? Will it have a deterrent effect?’ And it doesn’t appear to be a deterrent.’

Ten people were arrested in Monday’s ‘unauthorized protests’, including a woman who chained herself to a car wheel with a bicycle lock in North Sydney.

A further 12 arrests were made on Tuesday as Blockade Australia launched a second march through the CBD to Hyde Park.

Police have said they will use the new laws to prosecute the accused and have vowed to remain in force until July 2 to stamp out planned protest activities.

The extreme environmentalists have planned a weeklong 'mass disruption' to traffic in Sydney (pictured, protesters blocking a car in Sydney on Monday) despite tough new anti-protest laws, including a maximum of two years in prison and $22,000 fines

The extreme environmentalists have planned a weeklong ‘mass disruption’ to traffic in Sydney (pictured, protesters blocking a car in Sydney on Monday) despite tough new anti-protest laws, including a maximum of two years in prison and $22,000 fines

A female protester was knocked to the ground by a police officer during Tuesday's demonstration

A female protester was knocked to the ground by a police officer during Tuesday’s demonstration

New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman said the delays caused by meetings like Monday’s could cost millions in lost productivity.

He said the old laws with $400 fines were not a deterrent and authorities should try the new laws as they are likely to deter a large proportion of protesters.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Paul Dunstan said the police presence would remain highly visible.

“It is unacceptable that a small number of people – who have little to no respect for ordinary people who live their lives – cause unnecessary disruption to their commute,” A/Deputy Commissioner Dunstan said.

“What these individuals are doing is both illegal and unsafe. They are endangering the lives of themselves, the general public and our officers by running in the lane and blocking roads in other ways to disrupt traffic.”

The arrested activists, seven of whom were denied bail, face multiple charges of obstruction and disturbance and will appear in court on Tuesday.

Police Minister Paul Toole said it was infuriating.

‘I’m furious. The public is outraged,” he told Nine Network on Tuesday.

“These are professional plagues.

“These people say they’re there to actually protect the climate, but yesterday they were messing around all over Sydney.”

Blockade Australia spokesman Jonah Shabtay told AAP that the protests were intended to demonstrate the effects of the climate collapse.

“(The protests are) really to make it very well known and inevitable that disruption will come from the climate collapse, for which Sydney’s economy is largely responsible,” he said.

‘To respond to this, we choose to disrupt the city.’

Ten people were arrested Monday after dozens of protesters stormed downtown Sydney demanding action on climate change (pictured)

Ten people were arrested Monday after dozens of protesters stormed downtown Sydney demanding action on climate change (pictured)

Shabtay said the group had moved away from its previous tactics of targeting ports and focusing on roads in Sydney’s CBD.

“It’s essentially traffic disruptions that we’re going to see all week.”

Labor leader Chris Minns said it was untenable for the protesters to routinely bring Sydney to a halt.

“Maybe we’ve had women waiting to go to emergency rooms, birth centers to give birth to children or (other) emergencies,” Mr Minns said Monday.

The opposition leader also noted that the new federal Labor government had committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and had ambitious interim targets for 2030.

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