Climate change rallies have been held in most capital cities around Australia in the wake of the bushfire crisis, with thousands of protesters criticising Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the fire emergencies in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
- Organisers want to “sack Scomo”, and secure compensation for volunteer firefighters
- A number of people attending the Sydney rally were bushfire victims or had family who had lost homes
- Some people said it was the first protest they had ever attended because they were so upset
Protesters were criticised by politicians and police, who said resources had to be diverted from bushfire fronts to manage the crowds at the rallies.
The Uni Students for Climate Justice organised the protests that were intended to shut down parts of the CBD during peak hour in those capital cities.
Rallies were also held in a number of regional cities.
Organisers said they wanted to “sack Scomo”, and secure compensation for volunteer firefighters, as well as emergency housing and compensation for those paying for accommodation after their houses burnt down.
They also demanded the Federal Government end the multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel subsidy.
‘Get rid of Scomo’
In Sydney, thousands of climate protesters packed into the area around Town Hall.
Several people told the ABC it was the first protest they had ever attended because they were so upset about bushfires and the climate change situation.
Tweet: @isabellahiggins Very loud crowd at Sydney climate rally. Several people have told me this the first protest they’ve ever attended because they’re so upset about bushfires and climate change situation @abcnews
Crowds spilled across several city blocks, causing delays to car traffic and light rail services.
Protesters chanted “we want climate justice,” and “get rid of Scomo”.
The crowds at the Sydney rally were so densely packed in places that people were struggling to move.
Sydney father Lachlan James told the ABC he hoped the rally sparked a political response.
“I’m doing this for my daughter really,” he said.
“I haven’t been to a protest before but I’ve just been absolutely disgusted by 20 years of political paralysis.
“Politicians would rather see the planet burn than admit ‘yeah, we were wrong’, so it’s really important to be here.”
A number of people attending the Sydney rally were bushfire victims or had family who had lost homes.
Tweet: @isabellahiggins Big crowd at Sydney climate protest. Chanting “what do we want, climate justice!” @abcsydney
In Melbourne, despite rain, there were at least 5,000 people blocking off the middle of Melbourne’s CBD and part of La Trobe Street.
Some people held signs with pictures of animals that had died in the nation’s bushfires while others held up photos of the Prime Minister calling for him to be sacked.
Tweet: @kristian_silva La Trobe St in the Melbourne CBD turned into a protest dance party. @abcmelbourne
Premier not happy with timing of rally
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews criticised the organisers for pushing ahead with the protest in Melbourne, putting pressure on police resources during the fire emergency.
“The protest against advice of police in the middle of a disaster —that’s when you start losing public support, not adding to your public support,” Mr Andrews said.
“Common sense tells you that there are other times to make your point.”
Victoria Police would not confirm how many officers were covering the Melbourne protest, due to operational concerns.
However, they confirmed no police officers were pulled back from the bushfires in Victoria for the protest.
Protesters said now was the time for protest.
Greens MP Adam Bandt was forced to deliver his speech under a tarp on the back of a truck as the rain bucketed down in the city.
“We want to stop the country we love from burning,” he told the crowd.
“We were warned it was going to be like this. Scott Morrison, you share some of the blame for these fires.”
‘Shame Scott Morrison, shame’
In Brisbane, emotions ran high at the climate change rally where more than 3,000 people gathered in King George Square to demand Mr Morrison’s resignation.
Carrying a sign saying ‘A Quite Angry Australian’, the Connoly family said Mr Morrison’s actions had fallen “completely short” of “what’s expected of a leader”.
Waving banners and signs including “climate change is killing Earth” and “how hot is this ScoMo”, protesters voiced anger at the Prime Minister.
The crowd also paused for a minute’s silence to remember the bushfire victims.
Shortly after 6:00pm, protesters began to march along Adelaide Street while chanting “Scomo’s got to go”, shutting down some city streets to traffic.
“They cannot say they didn’t know, but can only say they didn’t care to act,” Brisbane rally organiser Priya De told the crowd to cheers.
“Shame Scott Morrison, Shame.”
She also hit out at spending on military jets in her speech.
In Hobart, about 200 people gathered on the city’s Parliament House lawns.
Angus Bylsma from Extinction Rebellion Tasmania said the bushfires were “indisputably a result of the climate crisis”.
“We need to publicly declare a climate emergency and acknowledge that,” he said.
“These fires are unprecedented and they are huge and devastating, which is why now is the time to act.
“If there’s one way to get into the public consciousness and say what needs to happen is climate action right now, then these bushfires are an amazing visual example of why that’s the case.”
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