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Toole sticks by protester ‘pest’ comments

The NSW deputy premier has rejected claims radical climate activists are “peaceful protesters” saying the assertion is “a load of hogwash”.

Greens MP Abigail Boyd on Wednesday accused Paul Toole of making extreme comments about climate activists and accused him of inciting violence.

Radical climate group Blockade Australia launched a series of disruptive protests in Sydney’s CBD in June, resulting in 21 arrests.

Activists blocked city streets, threw bins across roads, and a young woman blocked access to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel with her car during the morning peak hour, chaining herself to her steering wheel.

At the time Mr Toole labelled the activist group “professional pests”.

During one march on a city street, a frustrated driver tried to run down a group of activists at an intersection.

“Will you now apologise for inciting acts of vigilante violence against peaceful climate activists that’s resulted in threats of violence, verbal assault, and has seen peaceful citizens being violently rammed by an accelerating vehicle?” Ms Boyd asked the deputy premier during a budget estimates hearing.

“The answer is ‘no’,” Mr Toole replied.

“I am not going to apologise. I’ll say that over and over again.

“The way in which you told me that these protests (are) done in a peaceful manner is a load of hogwash.”

He referred to a protest by Blockade Australia in the Hunter region last year, when an activist parked a car across a train track, saying it showed contempt for people’s lives.

“These people were not a part of a peaceful protest,” Mr Toole said.

“People could have potentially seen not only a freight train derail, but a passenger train derail and you’re telling me that they’re peaceful protesters?”

“Correct,” Ms Boyd replied.

Protesters became the target of new laws in April following a number of demonstrations targeting ports and roads.

Protesters can now face up to two years’ in jail and be fined up to $22,000 for demonstrations that disrupt roads, ports, railways, manufacturing, energy and other major facilities.

Some 32 people have been arrested since NSW Police launched Strike Force Guard in March to prevent, investigate and disrupt unauthorised protests.

Seven Blockade Australia activists were arrested in June during a raid at a rural property at Colo, where police allege the group were planning illegal protests.

Police say officers were intimidated and feared for their lives while surveilling the property.

Last month two activists arrested at the property were ordered to leave NSW after being granted bail.

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