Four more protesters arrested after blocking a Sydney road can expect the state to “throw the book” at them.
The warning from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is unlikely to deter the protesters, who have already promised to continue their campaign, despite the increased penalties and expanded reach of new laws that passed parliament last Friday.
The group’s “three basic demands” are to “immediately re-home flood and bushfire survivors”, implement recommendations of the royal commission into the Black Summer bushfires including securing an Australian-based aerial firefighting fleet, and to “smoke-proof” schools, aged care and disability facilities.
Perrottet hopes they will change their mind once they are facing two years’ jail or a $22,000 fine.
“This type of behaviour needs to stop,” the premier said today.
Perrottet said that while his Government respects and promotes free speech, people must exercise their right to protest responsibly.
“Don’t do it at the expense of people trying to get to and from work, trying to get their kids to school, stopping people earning a living and a wage – that’s what these protests are doing,” he said.
Perrottet warned activists they risked alienating the public and losing support for their cause.
The four protesters, who blocked traffic on General Holmes Drive at Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney’s south, allegedly failed to comply with police directions to move on and were arrested without incident, police said.
A 61-year-old ACT woman, a 48-year-old woman from East Lismore, a 31-year-old woman from Brighton Le Sands and a 46-year old Queensland man were charged with wilfully preventing free passage of a person or vehicle, refusing to comply with police directions, and refusing to disclose their identities when required.
They were refused bail and will appear in Sutherland Local Court on Tuesday.
Fireproof Australia spokeswoman Bonnie Cassen said the new laws are not protesters’ primary cause of concern.
“We’re more scared of what will happen when the climate crisis causes the breakdown of law and order than we are of fines and prison,” she said.
This morning, shortly before the four Fireproof Australia protesters were arrested, one driver made his displeaure known.
“F***ing move, I’ve got to get to work,” he said, before attempting to drag one of the women protesting off the road.
“You’re not making any friends by stopping people getting through, you’re not getting any support,” another driver said.
Blockade Australia spokesman Greg Rolles said on Monday the new laws are not dissuading blockading protesters.
The blockades are the product of decades of “every other kind of protest” not achieving results, Rolles said.
NSW Police confirmed four people had been arrested but are yet to be charged.