"We stand up and fight!": in Sydney, Australians march to defend the right to protest

On the occasion of World Environment Day, protesters gathered on Monday in central Sydney. They are calling for the repeal of overly repressive anti-protest laws described by Amnesty International as a "threat to freedom of expression". Environmental actions had been sanctioned under these texts.

Protest in Sydney, June 5, 2023. © RFI / Gregory Plesse

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With our correspondent in Australia, Gregory Plesse


When the right to protest is attacked, what do we do? We get up and fight! " chanted the protesters in Sydney. They are gathered this Monday in the Australian city to defend the right to demonstrate.

Last year, the state of New South Wales passed particularly harsh laws exposing protesters who, for example, disrupt traffic, to fines of tens of thousands of dollars. They also face prison sentences. For example, under this law, a few months ago, an environmental activist was sentenced to 15 months in prison, before finally being acquitted on appeal. His crime: stopping one of the eight lanes of the bridge over Sydney Harbour for 20 minutes.

« The most successful protests have created disruption »

A law that is therefore dangerous, say the demonstrators. "Many of the rights we enjoy today were achieved by protesting. For example, as a woman, I have the right to vote, or the right to work; it's really an extension of our human rights," Gisela said.

In recent years, similar laws have been passed by almost every Australian state, arguing that the right to protest should not restrict freedom of movement. Sam, a protester, disagrees. According to him, to be effective, a demonstration must shake up everyday life. "The most successful protests in history, whether they were those initiated by Martin Luther King in America or Gandhi in India, they created disruptions, that was even their goal. So no, demonstrations don't necessarily have to cause disruption, but I think the most effective ones often are," he says.

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  • Australia
  • Environment
  • Social issues