Climate changeEnvironment

Sydney CBD climate protest attracts over 30,000 people

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More than 30,000 protesters brushed off hot and humid conditions to voice their displeasure at the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis and its attitude towards climate change.

The event in Sydney’s CBD was set up a few weeks ago by Uni Students for Climate Justice, in conjunction with Extinction Rebellion.

Thousands attended a rally at Town Hall in Sydney's CBD to demand action on climate change.

Thousands attended a rally at Town Hall in Sydney’s CBD to demand action on climate change.Credit:Cole Bennetts

The marchers were moving from Town Hall to Parliament House. Organisers were hoping for a larger crowd than at the early December protests, which attracted roughly 20,000 to the same location.

Inspector Gary Coffey said that the number this time around was “more than 30,000”.

Inspector Coffey said the crowd was “well-behaved” on its long march from Town Hall, past Parliament House and back to Hyde Park, where it disbanded.

Today’s turnout eclipses crowd sizes at the two most recent climate protests, but is less than the record 80,000 who packed out the Domain for the School Climate Strike last September.

It's estimated that more than 30,000 people took to the streets in Sydney on Friday.

It’s estimated that more than 30,000 people took to the streets in Sydney on Friday. Credit:Isabella Porras

After a march lasting close to an hour, Friday’s march ended outside Hyde Park’s Archibald Fountain, where protesters sat on the grass, listening to music and dance performances.

Protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho ScoMo has got to go” as speakers climbed Town Hall’s side steps, and later moved on to “The liar from the shire, the country is on fire”.

Izzy Raj-Seppings, 13, waited to address the crowd.

She was given a move-on order by police while protesting outside Kirribilli House last September. Her hope is that Friday’s protest will create change.

“[I hope] it attracts a lot of attention gets our Prime Minister to move and start thinking about change from fossil fuels to renewables,” she said.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi addressed the crowd.

“I stand in front of you today bloody angry,” she said. “I don’t think I have ever been this angry in my life.”

She said she was determined to do whatever it took to turn the “climate crisis” around.

Thousands of protesters rally in front of Sydney Town Hall calling for action on climate change.

Thousands of protesters rally in front of Sydney Town Hall calling for action on climate change.Credit:Rhett Wyman

“Leadership is totally lacking in our Prime Minister and this government,” she said.

“Scott Morrison and his government are cowardly. They are dishonest. They are completely incompetent. They have behaved like climate criminals. And they are led by Scotty From Marketing.”

Senator Faruqi used a disparaging nickname for Mr Morrison, referring to his time at Tourism Australia.

She said a royal commission into bushfires was just the start, and that climate activists needed to be bolder and more radical in the future.

“Out-of-control bushfires are sweeping across the state – destroying thousands of hectares, houses, and lives,” the event description said on Facebook.

“These fires, heatwaves, and droughts are not just unprecedented – they’re the direct result of decades of climate destruction at the hands of fossil fuel loving politicians.

“The climate crisis has compounded hundreds of years of land mismanagement since invasion and decades of profiteering on water which has left much of the country in drought.”

A man in the crowd, who wanted only to be called Tim, said he had travelled up from the fire-ravaged South Coast, where his family lives.

“I’ve just driven up from Narooma. I drove down to rescue family stuck in the evacuation centre. I drove through the towns from Canberra down. You drive for hours. Everything is dead. Everything is burnt. I’ve got a seven-month old baby and it breaks my heart.”

A Penrith man named Steven said he had attended because he was “sick of not doing anything”.

“I felt like this was at least doing something. We have had so much inaction. Our government both state and federal have been embarrassing in their response. Instead of just tweeting I wanted to physically do something.”

Ning Ning, who moved to Brisbane from China last year, is visiting Sydney with her son and parents. She didn’t expect the protests, but isn’t surprised, given the severity of the fire crisis.

“[The fires] are terrible. A lot of animals died,” she said. “The government need to do something. I can see the people are angry. If it was in China, the government would control the fires very quickly.

“But in China, we couldn’t have this,” she said, pointing to the protestors marching by.

Protests also took place in other Australian capital cities.