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Sydney Harbour Tunnel protest: Blockade Australia climate change activists charged after chaos

A climate change extremist who allegedly used a bike lock to chain herself to the steering of a rental car to bring citybound traffic in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel to a abrupt halt will spend the night behind bars.

Sydneysiders faced a nightmare commute into work on Monday after dozens of Blockade Australia protesters hit the streets to cause another day of chaos.

Ten protesters were charged by NSW police on Monday night, including Mali, 21, who parked a white hatchback rental across the road leading into the busy tunnel to bring hundreds of drivers to a standstill. 

She was confronted by a furious driver while filming a livestream of her protest and later had to be cut from the car by officers from the Police Rescue Squad.

Mali has since been charged with entering the Sydney Harbour Bridge and disruption of vehicles and was refused bail to appear in Central Local Court on Tuesday. 

She was one of six women and four men aged between 21 and 49 from three states arrested and charged with a string of offences over Monday’s unauthorised protests.

All but one were refused bail to appear in either Central or Downing Centre Court on Tuesday. 

Other charges included obstructing driver’s/other pedestrian’s path and wilfully prevent free passage of person or vehicle.

Police have established Strike Force Guard vowed 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 roadway and blocking roads by other means to disrupt traffic.’

Police allege 60 people were involved in Monday’s unauthorised protest, interfering with the free flow of vehicles and pedestrians.

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.

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 continues, Tuesday and every day this week.

Mali began to livestream 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 outraged commuter erupted at a climate activist after she chained herself to the steering wheel of her car and blocked traffic outside the Sydney Harbour Tunnel

She began to livestream the protest when an angry driver walked up to her window and began to verbally abuse her before storming off

She began to livestream the protest when an angry driver walked up to her window and began to verbally abuse her before storming off

The woman's white hatchback was parked sideways over two lanes of traffic - causing chaos for the thousands of people who use the tunnel every hour

The woman’s white hatchback was parked sideways over two lanes of traffic – causing chaos for the thousands of people who use the tunnel every hour

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.’ 

Mali staged the protest as dozens of Blockade Australia demonstrators marched through the streets in the CBD, disrupting traffic and clashing with police.

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 livestream, then sipped water from a plastic water bottle as she continued her 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.’

A driver has rammed through a climate change demonstration taking place in the middle of Sydney (pictured)

A driver has rammed through a climate change demonstration taking place in the middle of Sydney (pictured)

Protesters marched down the street before a car drove through the intersection and almost hit two activists carrying a banner. Protesters then chased the car as it drove past

Protesters marched down the street before a car drove through the intersection and almost hit two activists carrying a banner. Protesters then chased the car as it drove past  

She then looks out the window to check on the police officers circling her car before the angered commuter walks back up to her car. 

The commuter screamed at her that she was ‘f***ing selfish’, then yelled a phrase at her about ‘jail’ that is so obscene it cannot be published.

Mali continues to look away at her phone and tries to ignore the commuter hurling insults at her.

The commuter then walks away before Mali urges her viewers to join her cause.

‘Come and stand in solidarity. Find your voice,’ she said.

A police officer then walks up to her window and politely asks her for identification.

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.

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 the middle of 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.’

Police officers surrounded the white hatchback as blocked traffic backed up for several kilometres

Police officers surrounded the white hatchback as blocked traffic backed up for several kilometres

The woman was eventually arrested by several officers and the tunnel reopened around 9am

The woman was eventually arrested by several officers and the tunnel reopened around 9am

When asked whether he had a message for anyone who  participated in the protest and thinks they got away without arrest, Mr Dunstan said: ‘We are reviewing CCTV … expect a knock on your door.

‘Will be coming for you to be arrested.’

Mr Dunstan added that the protester’s actions were ‘incredibly dangerous’ and described their behaviour as ‘unacceptable’.

Mali was one of dozens of Blockade Australia demonstrators that stormed the city, after vowing to create a week of misery for commuters by disrupting traffic with police frantically tried to stop the protest with barricade fences.

In a statement, the radical group said their week-long protest activities had ‘begun’ with ‘its Sydney mobilization to resist climate destruction’.

‘Sydney is where Australia’s operation began, and for more than two centuries, it has been where Australia’s destruction of this continent has been most intense,’ a spokesperson for the group said.

‘The institutions of Australia are concentrations of coercive power that enable this exploitation. Our collective survival rests on organised opposition and the use of strategic direct action to stand against this project of destruction.

Protesters hold a sign outside the Sydney Harbour Tunnel as a car blocks off traffic

Protesters hold a sign outside the Sydney Harbour Tunnel as a car blocks off traffic 

Dozens descended on Sydney's centre, carrying signs and chanting as they demanded action for climate change

Dozens descended on Sydney’s centre, carrying signs and chanting as they demanded action for climate change 

‘Blockade Australia will continue to cause disruption and resist climate destruction in the days to come.’

Meanwhile, furious Australians have flocked online to slam the group for interrupting society with ‘dangerous’ antics.’

‘These Blockade idiots need to think better,’ one person tweeted.

‘Even though many support Climate Change, still most of Australia is against these fools. Ban their public welfare if the want to put lives in danger blocking traffic and transport.’

‘I’m sorry but #BlockadeAustralia is 10yrs too late & giving climate change activism a bad name,’ another said.

Another man pointed out the protests meant people were spending longer in their cars with the heaters using petrol on due to the road blockage, which ironically was bad for the environment.

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

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 

A man picked up a barricade fence and ran away as protests choked traffic in the CBD on Monday

A man picked up a barricade fence and ran away as protests choked traffic in the CBD on Monday 

‘It’s all well and good to protest but to harass the broader community is just selfish,’ a fourth wrote.

As commuters began heading into the city for work, throngs of protesters descended on Elizabeth Street before marching around Hyde Park towards NSW Parliament.

The crowd was forced to disperse when it was blocked by police at the intersection of George and Bridge streets, blocking access to the Harbour Bridge. 

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