Local activists have labelled the state government's introduction of harsher punishments for disruptive and unlawful protests as an "over the top" response that could hamper social progress.
At least 22 climate protesters were arrested in Sydney this week, after they marched in a group of about 60 through the city's streets and used a car to block the entrance to a major tunnel, causing traffic chaos.
Many of those arrested have been charged under tough new anti-protest laws, aimed at deterring demonstrations which disrupt roads, ports and rail with penalties of up to $22,000 or two years' jail.
Gordon Murray, a Wagga resident and climate activist, criticised the implementation of the new laws as "draconian" and undemocratic.
"It seems to be an over the top response rather than just sitting down and talking to people as to why they are protesting," he said.
"I'm very disturbed we have this high-handed and very draconian approach when you've got people really trying to get their voice across to improve our conditions."
The state government has also recently increased the maximum penalties it can hand down to unions and employers that partake in unlawful industrial action, such as the NSW Teacher's Association strike in early May.
Dr Murray said looking to deter teachers from trying to improve the state's education system came under the same category as the anti-protest laws.
"Trying to demonise people who are at their wits' end of what to do rather than sitting down and having a serious discussion about the issues is a failure of government," he said.
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Emilie Nuck, another Wagga-based climate activist, said the recent protests in Sydney were "extreme" but also showcased the urgent need for climate action.
She said it was important to remember how protests have been used to make Australia a better place.
"People take to the streets to improve workplace rights, voting rights and environmental protections," Ms Nuck said.
"If we restrict protests then perhaps we might not have a facet to advocate for important social change."
Ray Goodlass marched in Sydney's very first Mardi Gras parade in 1978 and has been protesting for social and climate causes for about 50 years.
He said the anti-protest laws were an attempt from the NSW government to stop protests entirely by threatening people with severe punishments and would likely discourage potential protesters.
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