Climate protest stops traffic in Sydney Road
Saturday’s action sought to highlight the impact of global warming on food supply
Sunday, August 28, 2022
CLIMATE change protesters brought Sydney Road to a standstill on Saturday as they sought to draw attention to the impact of global warming on food supply.
Several dozen members of Extinction Rebellion Northside blocked cars and trams as they slowly made their way up Sydney Road from Barkly Street, stopping at the intersection with Albert Street for a performance of street theatre.
A visible police presence accompanied the peaceful protest, which for a period of time forced cars into narrow side streets causing flow on impacts to traffic during the busy Saturday lunchtime period.
The colourful protest included “pedal rebels” on bikes wearing skeleton costumes, a brigade of people pushing empty shopping trolleys and several large banners. Arriving at Albert Street, the trolley pushers performed a choreographed dance – or trolleyography – to the sound of ‘Hungry Town’, a hit song from 1986 by Melbourne funk band Big Pig.
But the protest also caused some confusion and mild anger on the roads and social media, with some drivers questioning whether blocking traffic would win people to the Extinction Rebellion cause.
Extinction Rebellion Northside spokesperson Mischa Barr said the action sought to highlight the impact of “climate chaos” on food production.
Yellow flyers handed out at the protest warned that increasing storms, droughts, floods, salination, landslides and bushfires are destroying crops and reducing livestock and fish populations.
The flyers also said that food production was responsible for 20 to 30% of greenhouse gases, and farming practices needed to change to reduce that impact.
“People are already starting to feel in the supermarket and in their hip pocket that food shortages are already starting to bite because of climate change induced floods, heatwaves, all those kinds of things,” Ms Barr said.
“We’re seeing that both in Australia and around the world, and but people are not necessarily putting two and two together … And so we were wanting to draw attention to the broader impacts of the climate crisis on food security, both here and around the world.
“The empty shopping trolleys, obviously symbolic of what we will see in the future and what is already, you know, an everyday reality for some people in other parts of the world.”
The action in Sydney Road was the first in the area by Extinction Rebellion since the COVID-19 pandemic and since the federal election.
Watch video of the protest
“People are still emerging from the pandemic. So part of the action was to say, ‘Hey, we’re still here, we’re back, come and join us’,” Ms Barr said.
“It was really trying to sort of mobilise more people, bring them to the movement, and remind people that although we’ve elected a more climate-friendly Labor government at federal level, we still have a long way to go.
“The 43% emissions reduction target that federal ALP have just passed in legislation is really woefully inadequate. We know we need much faster and stronger action if we’re going to really mitigate the risks of the climate crisis. So it’s really trying to encourage people to not be complacent, we actually need to drive real change.”
Extinction Rebellion Northside was formed from the amalgamation of groups in Moreland, Darebin and Yarra and claims to have about 2000 members.
The group plans to be active during the lead up to the state election on November 26, with two weeks of action scheduled around Melbourne in October.
The action will be focussed on pressuring the Victorian government to prevent oil and gas exploration and to protect native forests from logging.
Although activities haven’t been finalised, Ms Barr said it was possible Brunswick would feature.
Protesters handed out flyers like this one to pedestrians and drivers in Sydney Road.
Ms Barr acknowledged Saturday’s action had been disruptive but she said the majority of feedback had been positive even from drivers held up on Sydney Road.
“Some people said, ‘I support your cause, but I don’t support the way you do it’, and we do get that feedback from time to time.
“Part of the purpose is disruption, because that’s how we draw our attention to the issue. But we also know that people need to get about their everyday lives and we always apologise for the disruption and say, ‘Look, we just know this is effective, and we apologise for the delay, etcetera’.
“But largely people were pretty supportive.”
A Victoria Police spokesperson said police were advised in advance about the protest and had a large visible presence to ensure safety and minimise disruption. She said the crowd was well behaved and there were no arrests.