Climate protest with people behind banisters holding a sign that say

Millions say no to jailing of peaceful climate activists

More than 200 organisations, including, CIVICUS, UnionsNSW, Australian Conservation Foundation and Oxfam, as well as prominent individuals representing millions of people across the country have united to condemn the recent 15 month jail sentence for climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco in NSW and to express concern about increasing repression, including the recent introduction of new anti protest laws in multiple states.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said:

“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.”

On 2 December, Coco, 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.

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.

Kelly O’Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation CEO

A solidarity action will take place outside Sydney’s Downing Centre Court on Tuesday morning at 9am.

Clancey Maher from Blockade Australia who is also charged under the NSW anti-protest laws said:

“Repression will not cool the planet. Punitive laws will not slow the pace of environmental destruction. Incarceration will not create a liveable planet. Collective resistance is vital and urgent.”

Blockade Australia activists Emma Dorge and Wenzel Auch also face custodial sentences arising from Port of Botany protests, at Downing Centre Court on Wednesday December 14 and Thursday December 15 respectively.

Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White said:

“The right to protest is a human right. No-one should be imprisoned for exercising this right, and Violet’s sentencing represents a concerning escalation in NSW’s crackdown on people’s right to protest, and that of others to address human rights abuses including climate inaction.”

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.

Karly Warner of Aboriginal Legal Service NSW

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.”

“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”.

Clement Voule, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly

Coco 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.

Vanessa Seagrove, Assistant Secretary of UnionsNSW said:

“Many unions will be in attendance at the protest tomorrow to support Violet. UnionsNSW condemns the imprisonment of environmental activist Violet Coco and demands her immediate release. As a movement that was born out of protest we unanimously call for these laws to be repealed by law makers. The most important social changes have been achieved through protest with unions at the forefront of many of them.”

350.org’s Lucy Manne said:

“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.”

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.

Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties said:

“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.”

Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk.

Climate change is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. Find out more about our Climate Justice campaign and join us in the fight for change.

Profile Picture
Amnesty International
Want to make headlines?

Australia: We need a Human Rights Act