A 15-month prison sentence for a peaceful protest that blocked a bit of traffic for 25 minutes?
Where? Must be in some repressive dictatorship with thousands of political prisoners and zero respect for human rights, yes?
Sydney’s Downing Centre local court this morning sentenced climate activist Violet Coco to 15 months in prison, with no opportunity of parole for eight months, for her part in a climate protest earlier this year.
Here’s what she did…
On April 13, Coco climbed on the roof of a parked truck that stopped traffic in one lane of the five-lane, in-bound side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. She stood there holding a lit emergency flare, and after about 25 minutes, the police forcibly removed her and other protesters from the road.
Look, Coco freely admits she committed a crime.
“I understand that I broke the law, and I'm willing to accept the consequences of my actions,” Coco told HRW back in June.
But the seven charges thrown at her were ridiculously excessive. They included a charge under explosives regulations for holding the emergency flare, and an incitement offense for “encouraging the commission of a crime” by livestreaming the protest on Facebook.
And now, the sentence is even more absurd - 15 months for a 25-minute peaceful protest?
I mean… seriously?
Yes, seriously. And unfortunately, this is not the only such case in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).
In March, the NSW government established a new police unit known as the Strike Force Guard, designed to “prevent, investigate and disrupt unauthorised protests across the state.” Also, the state parliament has introduced new laws and penalties specifically targeting protests that block roads and ports.
We’ve reported how Australian authorities have been subjecting climate protesters to vindictive legal action, with magistrates imposing harsh penalties and bail conditions on climate protesters in particular.
As my colleague in Australia, Sophie McNeill, says, “It’s clear climate protesters are being targeted for disproportionate punishment.”