NSW Police Threatened To Arrest Student Climate Protesters For Handing Out Leaflets

“It is completely horrific that now Sydney has become a police state."

Climate Protest IMARC

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Climate protesters say they were almost arrested by NSW police for handing out leaflets outside of a mining conference in Sydney.

A group of 50 activists congregated outside the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), where representatives from over 800 multinational fossil fuel companies were in attendance.

They met outside the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Darling Harbour, and despite not even entering the premises, were met by a large police presence. A representative from the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) said the mobilisation featured 500 officers in the area, including a riot squad.

SRC Environment Officer Maddie Clark said she was threatened with arrest and fines for distributing the pieces of paper on the street as part of a move-on order, and activists who had stalls were also given infringement notices. A constable told the protesters that they were enforcing a bylaw banning the distribution of materials without a permit, which the students have called a “massive attack on basic democratic rights”.

“It’s outrageous that the police threatened to fine and arrest me for the supposed crime of handing out leaflets,” said Clark after being escorted away from the ICC.

“We are facing an environmental crisis, and the people that the police want to intimidate are student protesters.”

“There are over 800 mining corporations meeting, here to discuss how they can further destroy the planet for more profits, while the whole planet is burning,” said Clark. “And the people who these cops decided to target are not the climate criminals in [the ICC], but student protesters fighting just for the planet to be saved.”

The group say several activists were also visited by police at their homes warning them to not attend the protest in the days prior.

Anti-protest laws with harsher penalties were passed in April in response to climate activists disrupting operations in NSW. The legislation has been described as “draconian”, and was recently challenged in the Supreme Court for infringing on the right to political communication. In October, the Guardian reported that IMARC might have been moved from Melbourne to Sydney to ‘take advantage’ of NSW’s strict anti-protest laws.

“It is completely horrific that now Sydney has become a police state where these sorts of laws and police presence are used to target and repress protesters,” said Clark.

NSW Police told Junkee that during last week’s operation no arrests were made, and that the issuing of infringements is a matter for the Darling Harbour Foreshore Authority.

“The NSW Police does not comment on operations, to ensure the integrity of future operations and the safety of the officers involved.”

A second protest calling on Australia to stop expanding its fossil fuel investments during COP27 is taking place in front of Sydney’s Town Hall on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Supplied