Australia: millions say no to jailing of peaceful climate activists

Australia protesters arrested Twitter BlockadeAusOver 220 organisations representing millions of members across the country have united to condemn the recent 15 month jail sentence for climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco and to express concern about increasing repression, including the recent introduction of new anti protest laws in multiple states.

“We are seeing fundamental democratic principles stripped before our eyes at an alarming rate. Violet is the 5th person to receive a jail sentence* in the last 12 months for peaceful climate activism, as repression mounts against community activists across the nation. She is one of thousands taking extraordinary action in the face of an urgent crisis” said Kelly O’Shanassy of Australian Conservation Foundation

On 2 December, Violet, from Fireproof Australia, was sentenced to 15 months in custody with a non parole period of 8 months. Her appeal for bail will be heard on 13th December. A solidarity action will take place outside Downing Centre Court.

We reject the claim from Premier Perrottet that protest should not inconvenience people, and are concerned about the message this sends in a democracy. Peaceful but disruptive protests have won many of the rights we take for granted today, including the 8 hour day, voting rights, end to conscription, and to enjoy the forests and precious places we defended. Australia is a signatory to conventions protecting our right to freedom of movement, association, peaceful assembly, and political speech which the government must respect, and we must defend.

"The freedom to protest has been a central part of many of the most important movements across this country, from land rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to voting rights, to achieving the eight hour work day. Governments across Australia need to recommit to our democracy, and repeal these laws that criminalise protest." Alice Drury, Acting Legal Director, Human Rights Law  Centre.

We welcome the support from the UN and international human rights organisations, including the recent statement from Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly who expressed “I am alarmed at NSW court's prison term against climate protester Deanna Coco and refusal to grant bail until a March 2023 appeal hearing. Peaceful protesters should never be criminalised or imprisoned.”

Violet was charged with several offences, including disrupting vehicles, failing to comply with police direction and resisting or hindering police. The charges arose from her action blocking one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for approximately 25 minutes.

“It's outrageous that the state wastes resources seeking jail time and locking up peaceful protestors in custody at the expense of taxpayers. In contrast, fossil fuel corporations are contributing to climate collapse, yet have bi-partisan support for further mining and their subsidies continue at a rate of $22,000 a minute” - Lucy Manne, 350.org

Protestors from Fireproof Australia, Extinction Rebellion, Blockade Australia and Frontline Action on Coal and many more have engaged in peaceful civil disobedience in recent years in support of urgent action on climate change. Thousands have been involved, representing the voices of many more.

Karly Warner of Aboriginal Legal Service NSW said “The Aboriginal Legal Service was born out of a protest movement in the 1970s. You would be hard-pressed to find any win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights that wasn’t brought about by public protest.

There is no climate justice without racial justice. The right to assemble and demonstrate in our streets, towns and cities is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. For marginalised communities, public protests enable us to be seen and heard, even — and especially — when those in power would rather suppress our voices.

We condemn in the strongest terms this government crackdown on our right to protest.”

The vast majority of Australians across the political spectrum support, and voted for, strong action on climate. People should not be concerned they could risk heavy penalties simply for taking to the streets. New anti-protest legislation in several states is wide open to police misinterpretation. NSW has already seen increased policing of peaceful NGO-led climate protests and police threats of invoking the laws against a wide variety of actions since their introduction in April.

“This state's ongoing repression of protestors through parliament passing harsher laws, police seeking draconian bail conditions and surveilling protestors, and prosecutors seeking custodial sentences shows just how much contempt this government holds for protestors and the environment. The repression of peaceful protestors must end” concluded Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Peaceful protest should not be a crime. Anti protest laws must be repealed. People engaged in peaceful protest should never be sentenced to jail.

Signatories to the open letter

350.org Australia

Dr David Abello, on behalf of the 78ers, the First Mardi Gras Inc

Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited

ACF Community Geelong

Action Ready

ADAC - A Different Approach Community

Aid/Watch

Amnesty International Australia

Andrew Denton

Animal Liberation NSW

Antipoverty Centre

Arid Lands Environment Centre

Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas and Mining

Arshak Makichyan

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

Australian Communist Party

Australian Conservation Foundation

Australian Democracy Network

Australian Forests and Climate Alliance

Australian Lawyers Alliance

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (NSW State Division)

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union 

Australia

Australian Marine Conservation Society

Australian Nonviolence Projects

Australian Progress

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Australian Services Union NSW ACT (Services) Branch

Australian Services Union Victorian Private Sector Branch

Australian Unemployed Workers' Union

Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Author - The 99th Koala

Bayside Climate Crisis Action Group

Bellingen Activist Network

Beyond Gas Network

Beyond War

Black Flag Sydney

Black Wallaby Forest Action

Blockade Australia

Bob Brown Foundation

Dr Luke Buckmaster

BurnZero.com

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action

Caldera Environment Centre

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law (Monash University)

Central Victoria Climate Action

Centre for Climate Safety

CFMEU Construction and General Division

Chipstop Campaign Against Woodchipping

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Cristy Clark

ClimActs

CLIMARTE

Climate Action Monaro

Climate Action Network Australia

Climate Action Radio Show

Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA)

Climate Change Action Network

Climate Council of Australia

Climate for Change

Climate Justice Programme

Climate Justice Union

Commons Social Change Library

Comms Declare

Community Action for Rainbow Rights

Community Legal Centres Australia

Community Legal Centres NSW

Community Power Agency

Conservation Council ACT Region

Conservation Council of SA

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA)

CoPower (Co-operative Power Australia)

CounterAct

Darebin Climate Action Now

Defend the Right to Protest

Digital Rights Watch

Do Gooder

Drum Rebellion

East Gippsland Climate Action Network

Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education

Environment Centre NT Inc

Environment East Gippsland inc

Environment Victoria

Environmental Justice Australia

Environs Kimberley

Extinction Rebellion Australia

Extinction Rebellion Cairns

Fireproof Australia

First Dog on the Moon

FlightFree Australia

Flinders University

Frenzal Rhomb

Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth Melbourne

Friends of the Forest - Mogo

Frontline Action on Coal

Galilee Rising

Geelong Sustainability

GetUp

El Gibbs, writer, disability advocate

Glen Eira Emergency Climate Action Network (GECAN)

Goongerah Environment Centre

GraceTree

Grassroots Action Network Tasmania

Grata Fund

Green Institute

Green Music Australia

Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Gudanji For Country

Heal the Earth Now  (international)

Healthy Connection For All

Dr Tamar Hopkins

Human Rights Law Centre

Dr Rebecca Huntley, Author,”How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference”

Dan Ilic

Institute of Collaborative Race Research

International PEN Melbourne Centre

International Service for Human Rights

Jews Against Fascism

Ketan Joshi, Author “Windfall: Unlocking a fossil free future”

Jumbunna Research, UTS

Justice Reform Initiative

Knitting Nanas Hunter Loop

Sydney Knitting Nannas & Friends

Kooyong Climate Change Alliance

Lane Cove Sustainability Action Group

Carmen Lawrence, academic, Ex WA Premier, Head Australian Labor Party

Legal Observers NSW

Liberty Victoria

Lighter Footprints

Lincoln Ave Progressives

LIVE

Loud Jew Collective

Mackay Conservation Group

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre

Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney Branch)

Melbourne Activist Legal Support

Muslim Collective

Nannas for Native Forests

National Justice Project

National Tertiary Education Union (NSW)

Nature Conservation Council NSW

George Newhouse, Adjunct professor

Nillumbik Climate Action Team

North East Forest Alliance

North Queensland Conservation Council

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Claire O’Rourke

Oxfam Australia

PASA (Philippines Australia Solidarity Association)

Paul Gilding

Pax Christi Australia

Peace in Papua

People’s Climate Assembly

Peter Garret

Pride In Protest

Progressive Cinema, Armidale, NSW

Proposition One Campaign for a Nuclear-Free Future

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Services International (Asia Pacific Regional Office)

Queensland Conservation Council

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties

Redfern Legal Centre

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU)

Rising Tide

Save the Bay Coalition

School Strike 4 Climate

Scientists Warning Foundation, California, US

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Ltd

Socialist Alliance

South East Forest Rescue

South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA)

Anna Spargo-Ryan, Writer / A Kind of Magic

Spirit of Eureka SA

Dr Joan Staples

Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Stop Russell Vale Mine

Sweltering Cities

Tom Tanuki

The Australia Institute Tasmania

The Future Makers

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Sydney Branch

The Sunrise Project

The Sustainable Hour Podcast

The Wilderness Society

Tomorrow Movement

Transition Streets Geelong

UnionsNSW

Uni Students for Climate Justice

United Workers Union

University of Melbourne Student Union Environment Department

UNSW Centre for Crime, Law and Justice

UTS Criminal Justice Cluster

Victorian Pride Lobby

Victorian Socialists

Vote Climate

Vote Earth Now

Wage Peace

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance VIC

Water for Rivers

What Can I Do? Australia

White Rose Society Australia

Wollongong Against War and Nuclear weapons (WAWAN)

Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA)

Women’s Justice Network

Workers for Climate Action

World Animal Protection

WSU Network for Law and Human Rights

Yarra Climate Action Now

Yassmin Abdel-Magied


Civic space in Laos is rated as "Narrowed" by the CIVICUS Monitor