Credit image: Igor Corovic
Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Sydney’s CBD has tumbled into turmoil once again following an incident in which almost 30 Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked some of the city’s busiest roads.
In the midst of morning peak hour on Monday 29 March 2021, protesters were discovered chained to barrels and some even with their hands glued to infrastructure outside the APA Group office, situated beside Town Hall.
Blocking the road at the corner of George St and Bathurst St, the Extinction Rebellion protesters were advocating that APA Group – Australia’s largest gas company – withdraw from building the Western Slopes pipeline, which will contribute to the controversial Narrabri Gas Project.
One female protester outright glued her hands to the road.
According to a statement from NSW Police, the protest was “unauthorised and occurred without warning”, and as a result, officers from Sydney City Police Area Command were called to the scene in the dozens to ensure the rally was under control.
In fact, one Sydney driver was infuriated by the road obstructions that they wrathfully tried to break through the protesters – footage of which was captured by reporters.
In the footage, the driver can be seen moving swiftly through the banners of those rallying, then stopping only centimetres before a protester.
Around 9am, officers, with the help of specialist police resources, managed to free the woman who glued her hands onto the road and relocate the protesters away from the main traffic thoroughfares where they were no longer blocking vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
The marchers remained “monitored” by police, while arrests of five people from the Extinction Rebellion group were made.
Specifically, two women, aged 23 and 32, and one man, aged 36, were arrested over allegedly affixing themselves to the barrels, filled with concrete, which had been rolled onto the road.
Additionally, a 40-year-old woman was arrested after being removed from a nearby building awning, as was the 59-year-old woman who glued herself to the ground once she was detached from the roadway.
Those arrested were taken to Day St Police Station and charged and will face court at later dates.
In NSW, while protesting is a defining feature of liberal democracy, all relevant laws must still be adhered to where a person chooses to participate. Before protesting, you should know your rights to protesting in NSW and what constitutes a legal and illegal protest in NSW.
In particular, it is against the law to obstruct traffic – vehicle, vessel or pedestrian – when taking part in a protest in a public place, unless you have a reasonable excuse.
This is made clear in section 6 of the Summary Offences Act 1988, which states that a person shall not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), wilfully prevent, in any manner, the free passage of a person, vehicle or vessel in a public place.
Any breach of this can land you with a fine of $440 in court.
Narrabri Gas Project Receives Federal Approval While Opposition Mounts from Farmers and Indigenous Leaders
In November 2020, the contentious Narrabri Gas Project received approval from the Federal Government, despite opposition flaring up.
The project, undertaken by Santos, will see up to 850 coal seam gas wells in northern New South Wales drilled up, potentially damaging groundwater and biodiversity in the Pilliga Forrest.
The proposal, worth $3.6 billion, has seen opposition stem from environmental and cultural concerns, predominantly around the groundwater of the Great Artesian Basin.
The NSW Farmers Association is not convinced of the plan, asserting that access to groundwater is critical for the farming sector.
“In the drought, the water kept people going. It was the aquifers that people used for their stock water resources and these are very critical to our businesses,” a spokesperson from the NSW Farmers Association has said.
Meanwhile, traditional owners are vowing to persist with the fight against the project on a united front.
Speaking of the project, Gomeroi Native Title applicant, Polly Cutmore, said she had been “very upset” by it.
“Santos needs our production line and our land and water. It doesn’t belong to the Federal Government, the State Government, and it doesn’t belong to Santos — it belongs to us and we say no,” Ms Cutmore has voiced.
It is Ms Cutmore’s belief that the Federal Government do not understand the issue, given they have not spent time in the country area.
“We always knew the Federal Government was going to do this,” Ms Cutmore has said.
“Scott Morrison and Sussan Ley haven’t spent one day in Gomeroi or sat down with our elders. Until they can do that, they can just run back wherever they come from.
“They’re not welcome in Gomeroi.”