Hundreds of protesters shut down streets in Sydney’s CBD on Friday evening calling for immediate climate action. The rally was part of a series of nation-wide demonstrations hosted by the National Union of Students (NUS) and Uni Students for Climate Justice, in conjunction with other groups including Extinction Rebellion, and stemmed from nation-wide walk-outs from university classes that occurred earlier in the day.
Police presence was high by the time the event commenced at Town Hall, and had noticeably grown by the time the marchers were seated on Macquarie Street outside New South Wales (NSW) Parliament. The crowd was led back to Martin Place, where chanting continued after the demonstration had officially concluded.
2018 University of Sydney SRC Education Officer, Lily Rosebell, chaired the event, leading chants such as “When our planet is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and promising to “shut the city down for a little while.”
Traffic was halted across Druitt Street as well as multiple roads intersecting Martin Place for around 20 minutes as the crowd marched from Town Hall to Parliament, before police moved the crowd onwards.
The rally was one of many to take place over the last few months, with international strikes organised by school students occurring on the 15th of March and 24th of May earlier this year.
Scott Morrison was lambasted throughout the night for his lack of action on the climate crisis. Daisy Jeffrey, a 16-year-old representative from School’s Strike for Climate, labelled the Prime Minister a “coal fondler”. Jeffrey also outlined the movement’s three demands: the abandonment of new coal, oil and gas projects (including the Adani mine), sole nation-wide use of renewable energy by 2030 and job creation and sustainment for fossil-fuel industry workers. Back in June, the City of Sydney declared a climate emergency and promised to use 100 per cent renewable energy by next year.
Gumbaynggirr activist Gavin Stanbrook provided an acknowledgement of country before expressing his support for the movement. He tied the environmental movement to the fight for Indigenous land rights and native title — specifically in regards to the Adani coal mine. Like-minded protesters in Brisbane have been continuously demonstrating against the mine, blocking trucks from entering the work site of a business supposedly linked to the mine earlier in the week.
Bruce Shillingsworth, an artist and member of the Budjiti and Muruwarri Nations, spoke outside NSW Parliament, calling the rally a “gathering of the true warriors of the future” and repeating “we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”.
A United Nations report released on Thursday warned of the devastating effects to food supplies climate change will cause through extreme weather conditions.
NUS Education Officer Lachlan Barker noted how a mere one degree increase in Australia’s climate and oceans over the last 100 years had resulted in these extreme conditions.
“Universities have an incredible opportunity in front of them,” Barker said,“It doesn’t take a PhD to act on climate change.”
A third student-led global climate strike is set to take place on 20 September.
Extinction Rebellion will continue to host rallies in the meantime, with an appearance planned for tomorrow’s City2Surf race through Sydney’s city and eastern suburbs.