Nonviolent Climate Defender Sentenced to Imprisonment

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Climate defender

To the shock of her numerous supporters gathered at the Downing Centre Courthouse today, NSW Magistrate Allison Hawkins sentenced Violet Coco to 15 months imprisonment, with non-parole set at 8 months, as well as imposing a $2,500 fine. 

Extinction Rebellion member Sage Ellis told Sydney Criminal Lawyers over the phone straight after the ruling that no one had expected that Coco would be sent away to serve real time over the nonviolent direct action she took part in, and her lawyer Mark Davis was directly filing for appeal. 

Coco has been an outspoken agitator for climate action over recent years, famously having appeared out the front of Parliament House in Canberra in August 2021, alongside a burning pram, as part of an Extinction Rebellion action, highlighting the rising climate crisis. 

Violet Coco amongst her supporters earlier today at the Downing Centre Courthouse
Violet Coco amongst her supporters earlier today at the Downing Centre Courthouse

But the 32-year-old was today imprisoned for her part in a 13th April Fireproof Australia nonviolent direct action, which saw her block one of the lanes of the Harbour Bridge during peak hour traffic with a hire van and allegedly letting off flares whilst standing on top of the vehicle. 

The crackdown on climate defenders in NSW has been escalating this year, as the Perrottet government passed some of the most draconian protest laws on the planet in early April. 

The laws regarding unauthorised protests now see those arrested for obstructing roads, bridges, tunnels or major facilities facing up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a $22,000 fine. That offence is contained in section 144G of the Roads Act 1993 (NSW).

It adds to the many laws that restrict protesting in our state, which include the offence of knowingly joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly in section 545C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW); an offence punishable by up to 6 months in prison.

As the imprisoning of Coco reiterates today, the Liberal Nationals government, with full support from Labor, is prioritising the ongoing operations of fossil fuel companies and their profits over the wants of grassroots people who are calling for climate action to be prioritised before it’s too late. 

“We need an emergency speed transition to zero emissions and a halt to biodiversity loss. To achieve that we need a rebellion,” Coco said in August last year. 

“We need people to understand what’s at stake – billions of lives and hell on earth – and look at their children and nephews and nieces and really understand that they’re protecting them.”

Main photo of Violet Coco before court today sitting with her mother sourced from Violet Coco – the Activist Facebook page 

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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