Violet Coco was sentenced to 15 months in jail with an eight-month non-parole period for stopping a lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April this year for 25 minutes. She was refused bail pending her appeal to be heard in March 2023 by Magistrate Hawkins on 2 December. The sentence has been labeled as ‘disproportionate’ by human rights advocates and condemned by civil rights groups and unions.
Yesterday the refusal of bail decision was overturned by Judge T Gartellman and Violet was released from jail on a good behaviour bond, $10,000 bail and a series of other conditions including weekly reporting to police, and no entering greater metro Sydney except for court.
Violet was sentenced for taking part in a protest alongside veteran Hunter Valley volunteer firefighter Alan Glover and two others, as part of the Fireproof Australia campaign which is demanding three things:
‘1. A sovereign aerial firefighting fleet as per the bushfire royal commission.
- Smoke filters in our schools, aged care and disability centres
- Immediate re-homing of flood and fire survivors’
‘Fireproof Australia believes the NSW government couldn’t win the argument against Fireproof Australia and chose to jail Violet instead,’ said Fireproof Australia in a press release.
Speaking from prison Violet has said ‘I have been imprisoned rather than listened to. Despite dire warnings from climate and ecological scientists, our governments are failing to do even the most basic things to protect us from the horror fires and floods that are already happening, and the even worse ones that are coming.
‘We are acting to ensure three basic things: that our Firies have all the tools that they need to protect us, that we take care of the vulnerable by installing smoke filters in all schools, hospitals and aged care and disability facilities, and that we stand with those already impacted and demand the fair and immediate rehoming of flood and fire survivors.
‘We need to stop giving $22,000 per minute to subsidise fossil fuel companies in this country, and we need to focus on protecting our community now and into the future.
“It’s not only fires, floods and extreme weather we face, but also food and water shortages, conflict and mass migration. As Australian scientist Professor Will Steffen has said, we risk billions of deaths, the collapse of human civilisation – and before that, hell on earth.’
More than 200 organisations, including, CIVICUS, UnionsNSW, Australian Conservation Foundation and Oxfam have united to condemn the recent 15-month jail sentence for climate activist Violet in NSW 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 fifth 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,’ Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.
’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.’
Activists face jail
Emma Dorge and Wenzel Auch are also on trial in Downing Centre Court this week for their actions disrupting operations at the Port of Botany in March 2022. They both face a possible custodial sentence of up to three years.
‘I took disruptive protest action for this reason: we are spiraling into climate collapse because of the environmental degradation our economic system has intentionally caused,’ said Ms Dorge.
‘Humans do not have to live in a violent destruction relationship with our surroundings. I see hope for us to do better but only if we can force those benefiting from the destruction to stop. ‘My action was not symbolic. It directly affected this dangerous system and was part of a broader mobilisation and growing movement which cannot be silenced. Our lives depend on it.’
Mr Auch says his activism ‘aims to prevent the harm caused by systemic exploitation and destruction. We seek to reclaim our right to a peaceful existence, free from repression and free from climate disasters. The only violence here is coming from the police and government, who are escalating attacks on activists, while we are trying to mitigate species loss, fires, floods and food shortages.’
Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties said ‘his 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.’