A climate activist who allegedly blocked peak hour traffic and stranded thousands of commuters on one of Sydney’s busiest roads has been accused by The Project hosts of being privileged.
Mali Cooper, 22, was among 10 people charged on Monday evening after dozens of Blockade Australia protesters hit the streets in the morning to cause chaos for commuters in Sydney’s CBD.
She filmed herself behind the wheel of a car blocking the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel causing gridlock, leading to one furious commuter screaming insults at her.
Appearing on The Project on Tuesday evening after spending a night behind bars, Ms Cooper said she was glad to have the opportunity to speak about climate issues.
Activist Mali Cooper (pictured) defended allegedly gridlocking Sydney traffic because she believes it will get people talking about climate change and not Blockade Australia protesters but also acknowledged protester were acting privileged
Ms Cooper’s white hatchback allegedly blocked the entrance to Sydney Harbour Tunnel on Monday morning (pictured)
‘I’m glad to be out and to have had a chance to see my family and to be here to have this conversation,’ Ms Cooper said.
She explained her ‘anxiety’ about the way the planet is being treated led her to allegedly chain herself to the steering wheel of a car blocking the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel – leaving Sydneysiders stuck in their cars as they tried to go about their day.
‘There are people who are determined to extract vast numbers of resources from this planet,’ she said.
‘It’s typically less privileged people who experience the impact of climate change and climate devastation that is happening now.’
The Project host Kate Langbroek questioned whether Blockade Australia’s actions were the best way to win support for action on climate change.
‘What do you think that your disruption has to do with climate change? People find you to be extremely divisive,’ Langbroek said.
‘You talk about privilege but the ultimate privilege was probably you deciding whether people could get to work or not?’
The white hatchback Ms Cooper was allegedly driving was parked sideways over two lanes of traffic – causing chaos for the thousands of people who use the tunnel every hour (pictured)
Ms Cooper said she believed her actions were prompting a conversation on climate issues and she ‘has no regrets’.
‘There’s a bigger conversation that needs to happen about climate change and I think that not a lot of people get a chance to speak on national television about this really important situation that impacts all of us.’
‘I recognise my privilege in the world and I recognise that I’m privileged talking to you.’
‘It is so important that I am here and I am having this conversation and we open up a discussion about how we move forward and how we take steps to support our life systems, support one another and ensure that we take climate action.’
Ms Cooper allegedly chained herself to the steering wheel with a bike lock (left) causing gridlock for kilometres with one furious commuter hurling disgusting insults at her (right)
The woman was eventually arrested by several officers and the tunnel reopened around 9am
Ms Cooper was released after being held by police on Monday night but is still facing up to $22,000 in fines courtesy of new laws brought in to crack down on disruptive and dangerous protests.
Mali is accused of parking a white hatchback across the road leading into the busy tunnel leaving motorists on their way to work banked up for kilometres.
She was confronted by a furious driver while filming a livestream of her alleged protest and later had to be cut from the car by officers from the Police Rescue Squad.
Six women and four men aged between 21 and 49 from three states were arrested and charged with a string of offences related to willfully preventing the free passage of a person or vehicle.
Police established Strike Force Guard vowing to maintain a highly visible presence in the CBD for the rest of the week after Blockade Australia warned of further disruptions.
‘It is unacceptable that a small number of people – who have little to no regard for everyday individuals going about their lives, are causing unnecessary disruptions to their morning commute,’ Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan said.
‘What these individuals are doing is both illegal and unsafe, putting the lives of themselves, the general public and our officers in danger by running on roadways and blocking roads by other means to disrupt traffic.’
Dozens of specialist officers were deployed to assist in the operation, including the Public Order and Riot Squad, Mounted Police, Rescue Squad, Dog Squad, Traffic and Highway Patrol and Transit Police.
Dozens descended on Sydney’s centre, carrying signs and chanting as they demanded action for climate change
Both sides of the NSW government condemned the protestors’ actions.
‘I would say this to the protesters: Go and get a real job,’ Deputy Premier Paul Toole said.
‘Go and talk to somebody who’s actually been delayed in getting to work today.’
Labor opposition leader Chris Minns added: ‘We may have had women waiting to get to emergency departments, birthing centres to give birth to children or [other] emergencies,’
Blockade Australia warned on its Facebook page on Monday night that resistance will continue every day this week.
Mali began to stream the protest when an angry driver walked up to her window and began to verbally abuse her with a string of swear words before storming off.
‘You’re f***ing everyone’s day up,’ he yells. ‘Get the f*** out of the way!’
An unfazed Mali continues to look at the camera before she responds: ‘To this man I would say I stand with you. It is for you, it is for your family that we do this.’
She staged the protest as dozens of Blockade Australia demonstrators marched through the streets in the CBD, disrupting traffic and clashing with police.
A police officer picks up milk crates left on the street as demonstrators were seen throwing bins and objects into the path of police to slow them down
One fed-up driver was filmed edging their car through the crowd forcing people to jump out of its way with one protestor banging on the hood of the car as they were pushed backwards.
Mali, who moaned about climate destruction in her stream, then sipped water from a plastic water bottle as she continued her alleged protest on the other side of the city.
‘The police are here,’ she said into the camera. ‘Not sure if you can see. Thank you everyone who has listened.
‘I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to hold this phone and hold this space. It’s a big day ahead.’
The tunnel is one of the major thoroughfares taking commuters across the city’s harbour, and is used by up to 2,000 cars every hour.
All traffic had been diverted via the Harbour Bridge and drivers were backed up for several kilometres.
A man picked up a barricade fence and ran away as protests choked traffic in the CBD on Monday
Extraordinary footage captured in Sydney’s CBD shows the moment members of the extremist Blockade Australia group were almost hit by an SUV while standing in an intersection near Wynyard Park.
One enraged driver drove straight through the demonstration, as protesters fruitlessly tried to stop the vehicle and chase it across the road – almost getting run over in the process.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Dunstan slammed the protester’s actions and said Mali ‘placed herself at risk, placed members of the public at risk, and placed rescuers at risk.’
‘The behaviour of this group is nothing short of criminal activity,’ the officer continued.
‘The throwing of bicycles, the throwing of garbage bins, the throwing of other items in the path of police, in the path of media, in the path of innocent members of the public just walking by will not be tolerated and cannot be by the people of NSW.’