The woman leading climate protests that paralyzed Sydney during Monday peak hour is a career activist with a colourful history.
Zelda Grimshaw, 56, has waged war against the Adani coal mine, written bizarre protest music and once condemned the whole idea of ironing clothes.
She was also nearly hacked to death by militia during a massacre in East Timor and campaigned against weapons sales by calling war ‘peak toxic masculinity’.
Now the Queenslander, occasional firefighter and cabaret dancer is the figurehead of Blockade Australia, a radical group that causes mayhem around Australia to draw attention to climate change.
Protesters on Monday parked a car sideways over the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and marched through the CBD hurling debris at police, with 11 arrested.
Blockade Australia has promised a week of disruption to ‘blockade the streets of Australia’s most important political and economic centre and cause disruption that cannot be ignored’ and is armed with a $75,000 legal war chest.
Zelda Grimshaw, 56, is the figurehead of Blockade Australia, a radical group that causes mayhem around Australia to draw attention to climate change
Protesters parked a car sideways over the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel (pictured) and marched through the CBD hurling debris at police, with 11 arrested
Ms Grimshaw last week invoked American civil rights hero Martin Luther King to call for 10,000 people to join the protest in Sydney.
‘To paraphrase Martin Luther King, when climate destruction becomes laws, resistance becomes duty,’ she said.
The group shut down the main freight route in and out of the Port of Botany in March and blocked freight trains carrying coal in Marrickville and Tempe in May.
Ms Grimshaw has been active in various protest causes for decades, mostly in Queensland where she lives in Cairns.
Her activism has involved opposing: the Adani coal mine in Queensland, cuts to arts funding, military spending and weapons production, forest logging, an wealth inequality.
Profiles by other activist groups credit her with being a driving force behind the Stop Adani group that waged a war of attrition against the mine by blockading trains and freight routes and harassing its financial backers.
Ms Grimshaw last week invoked American civil rights hero Martin Luther King to call for 10,000 people to join the protest in Sydney
Her West Papuan activism came from when she was United Nations observer during the 1999 East Timor independence referendum where pro-Indonesia militia massacred 1,500 civilians (pictured at the 2019 anniversary)
She also protested in support of indigenous rights and sovereignty, human rights for natives in West Papua, feminism, and for refugees to be settled in Australia.
Her West Papuan activism came from when she was United Nations observer during the 1999 East Timor independence referendum where pro-Indonesia militia massacred 1,500 civilians, and had to be evacuated to Darwin.
‘I was on foot. The militia had begun shooting people. They hacked a man to death in front of the UN headquarters and broke the arm of a BBC journalist, and I dived into the gully,’ she said at the 2019 anniversary.
‘My sister rang and said “you have to get out of there, it’s not safe”. I’m trying to reassure her, saying: “You only see the worst on TV”, when I was in a ditch with shots ringing overhead.’
Ms Grimshaw and two other Australians, a documentary film crew, were rescued from hiding in the ditch when locals broke through the militia lines in a ute and drove them to safety.
Ms Grimshaw’s activism has opposed the Adani coal mine in Queensland, cuts to arts funding, military spending and weapons production, forest logging, an wealth inequality
Ms Grimshaw’s day job appears to be as an artist, having performed cabaret, dances, and as a comedian as well as writing and performing a handful of songs.
Her music acts as an extension of her activism with titles like ‘Eat the Rich’, ‘Never Gonna Build that Mine’, and ‘The Ballad of Gina Rinehart’.
One of her songs ‘Down the Abbott Hole’ was promoted as ‘calling for the head of Tony Abbott’ – in reality just his resignation – over his environmental policies.
‘We speak for millions of Australians in saying that Tony Abbott is a national embarrassment, and an environmental disaster,’ she said at the time.
‘Since Australia fell down the Abbott hole, we have become the first nation in the world to overturn our climate change policies.
‘Refugees are treated as though they are the very terrorists they are escaping from, and human rights are being trampled on in the name of “security”.’
She also made a submission to a Senate inquiry into the impact of the 2014 and 2015 Budget decisions on the arts sector, defending grassroots projects that needed government money to exist.
‘These projects have no claim to “artistic excellence” in the sense of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra or Opera Australia,’ she wrote.
‘Yet these are the sorts of projects that drive cultural and social change, by connecting with communities in an inclusive arts practice.
‘By bringing divergent human experiences together in the peaceful zone that is arts expression, and by resolving social tensions and pain through the media of song, dance, poetry, and drama: acting together.’
One post in 2018 bragged about how she hadn’t paid an electricity bill in years because her solar panels generated more power than she used
Her music acts as an extension of her activism with titles like ‘Eat the Rich’, ‘Never Gonna Build that Mine’, and ‘The Ballad of Gina Rinehart’
Ms Grimshaw’s social media is loaded with activist messages and shared posts of protest photos and videos from Blockage Australia, Black Lives Matter, and various climate and environment groups.
One post in 2018 bragged about how she hadn’t paid an electricity bill in years because her solar panels generated more power than she used.
‘Tell me again, ScoMo (then-prime minister Scott Morrison), how coal keeps prices down for the consumer?’ she wrote.
Another post railed against the entire concept of ironing clothes, and bizarrely asked if it was invented by Mr Abbott.
‘Seriously, what a s**t invention and horrible waste of human and energy resources. And ironing boards are downright diabolical,’ she wrote.
Another post read: ‘I dreamt I was posing as a cyborg in order to infiltrate and disrupt an evil cabal of military-industrial psychopaths who were intent on destroying our planet (sound familiar?)
‘But I got sprung, because they were able to smell me! and then I had to fight them to the death (without the benefit of cyborg powers).’
Ms Grimshaw has been active in various protest causes for decades, mostly in Queensland where she lives in Cairns
Ms Grimshaw on her Facebook once railed against the entire concept of ironing clothes, and bizarrely asked if it was invented by Tony Abbott
Advertising a performance alongside indigenous artists at the Bulmba-ja Arts Centre in Cairns, she posted a protest poem.
‘We are the tide flowing into the future. No barnacled old sea wall can hold us back. We are global citizens of every age gender color hairstyle and sexuality,’ she wrote.
‘We are the culture makers and we are the game changers. We are here.’
Ms Grimshaw also wrote articles condemning war and weapons production, one of which was published in The Guardian.
That article told the story of Izzy Brown, whose former ASIO agent father worked for Thales, one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.
Ms Brown had discovered that Thales sold weapons to Indonesian special forces, which were accused of terrorising, torturing, and murdering natives in West Papuan, where her husband was from.
‘I was suddenly painfully aware that my father is paid by a company that sells weapons that may be used against his own grandchildren’s family,’ she said.
Police seized concrete barrels and locks from the protest group’s Colo campground on June 19
One of Ms Grimshaw’s many activist affiliations is with Wage Peace, which opposes companies selling arms to Indonesia.
The other article calling war ‘peak toxic masculinity’ was written in support of campaign to disrupt the 2021 Land Forces weapons expo in Brisbane, and began quoting what she screamed at the protest.
‘You are the mouldy and fetid remnants of a system in decay, the filthy dregs of an obsolete death cult,’ she said.
‘You are the scum floating on the cesspool of organised slaughter, putrid parasitic worms sucking life from the earth, you are despicable, drooling, depraved architects of mass murder.’
Guide to how your commute is going to be a DISASTER almost every day this week
Train drivers will refuse to drive faster than 60km/h in the Sydney suburban area, which threatens to clog the network.
Suburban lines on Tuesday are expected to run on an amended timetable with a reduction of up to half of normal services during the peak period.
There will also likely be significant delays for NSW intercity and long-distance regional services.
NSW TrainLink promised to directly contact customers who have bookings on regional train services to advise them of expected delays.
Passengers are advised to limit their use of those services to essential travel.
Train drivers will be indefinitely banned from moving back to the rail operations centre.
There will also be an indefinite ban on work relating to Sydney Metro.
Despite this Wednesday is shaping up as the least disrupted day.
Drivers will only work from their current depot and this will cause a significantly reduced timetable with delays.
In addition commuters are warned trains are set to have altered stopping patterns and cancellations are likely.
Intercity and regional services to the Central Coast, Newcastle, Hunter, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and South Coast lines is also expected on Thursday June 30 and Friday July 1.
Drivers will refuse to operate any foreign-built trains, which make up about 70 per cent of the fleet and operate 75 per cent of services.
This will lead to drastic reduction in train services across NSW, however there will be limited replacement buses will in some areas.
Train users are advised to keep checking transportnsw.info for updated information.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union is taking the protected industrial action voicing concerns over occupational health and safety matters to do with the trains imported from South Korea.
Blockade Australia protesters block the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and storm the CBD before driver rams them
Dozens of Blockade Australia demonstrators stormed the city at 8am on Monday, after vowing to create a week of misery for commuters by disrupting traffic with police frantically tried to stop the protest with barricade fences.
A woman from the group’s Lismore contingent proudly posted footage online of herself chained to her steering wheel by the neck while her white hatchback blocked traffic from entering the Harbour Tunnel.
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.
‘I’m Mali, I’m 22. I’m [here] in protest of the climate destruction that is happening in this continent right now,’ she says.
‘There are some really angry people who are screaming and threatening me – banging on windows and doors.’
Mali’s white hatchback was parked sideways over two lanes of traffic – causing chaos for the thousands of people who use the tunnel every hour
She began to livestream the protest when an angry driver walked up to her window and verbally abused her before storming off.
‘You’re f**king everyone’s day up,’ he yells. ‘Get the f**k 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.’
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.
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.
Why climate extremists DON’T CARE if they bring Sydney to a grinding halt
Genevieve told Daily Mail Australia she thinks angering workers is an effective way to get her message across.
‘Of course this will irritate people but I can’t think of anything else except going into politics, which I’m not going to do because I don’t have the temperament for it,’ she said.
‘I feel like this is the best thing I can think of at the moment – if something else becomes available, I’ll do that.’
Genevieve, 59, (pictured) felt compelled to join the protest to support her son, who refuses to have children due to climate change
The Sunshine Coast local, who flew to Sydney to support her family during the protest, lamented the fact that she won’t have grandchildren because her son and daughter-in-law believe the world is too far gone.
Another protester, Ian, held a sign at the rally that read ‘police overreaction to peaceful climate protesters’ – with a photo of cops in bulletproof vests.
When asked whether disrupting traffic was a good way to get bystanders to heed their message, the 76-year-old said immediate action is required.
Ian accused Scott Morrison’s former Liberal government of failing to acknowledge climate change for the nine years they lead the nation, before Anthony Albanese’s Labor government was elected in May.
‘I’m 76 – I haven’t got another nine years,’ he said.
‘How many bushfires, floods, and homeless people do we need?’
‘We need to take action to make sure that the people who got elected today take action.’
Ian, 76, carried a sign on Monday morning that read: ‘Police overreaction to peaceful climate protesters’
Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul 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,’ he said at a Monday morning press conference.
‘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.’
The radical group said its week-long protest activities had ‘begun’ with ‘its Sydney mobilisation 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.’
EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT THE PROTESTS THAT ROCKED SYDNEY
- Blockade Australia protesters swarmed to Hyde Park, in Sydney’s CBD, about 8am on Monday
- The group marched north through several streets, disrupting traffic, before they dispersed at the intersection of George and Bridge Streets after being blocked by police
- Meanwhile, an activist from the Lismore contingent blocked the Sydney Harbour Tunnel in North Sydney around 8.30am
- She shared a livestreamed video on Facebook from her white hatchback, which showed her chained to the steering wheel
- An angry commuter could be screaming at her outside the car’s window as the stunt caused vehicles to back up several kilometres
- Police arrived at the scene a short time later and arrested the woman. The car was removed and the tunnel reopened about 9.12am
- Blockade Australia released a statement announcing the demonstration was the first of many planned for their week-long ‘resistance of climate destruction
- The group said it would hold a press conference at 2.30pm in Redfern
- NSW Police have announced 11 people were arrested during the ‘unauthorised protests’