Ten climate activists faced the Downing Centre court on April 5 on charges stemming from a Blockade Australia (BA) non-violent direct action protest in the Sydney CBD last June.
All plead guilty to a charge of obstructing traffic; earlier charges made under New South Wales anti-protest laws had been withdrawn by the NSW Police.
Penalties ranged from a Conditional Release Order with no fine, to fines ranging from $100 to $1200.
Supporters from BA, Extinction Rebellion and the Socialist Alliance gathered outside the court to show solidarity with the arrestees and to voice their opposition to the Liberal’s anti-protest laws, which only passed last year with Labor’s support.
The solidarity gathering was disciplined but vocal; the activists expressed their views on placards and with enthusiastic chants which attracted the attention of passers-by, Downing Centre foot traffic and, possibly, even the police.
One supporter, Richard Boult, spoke passionately about the importance of having the right to protest in a democracy.
Boult had been arrested at the same protest and had faced court several weeks earlier. He had been found not guilty, after video evidence contradicted police claims.
Activists noted that even where charges have been withdrawn, or had not been sustained in court, arrestees have been de facto penalised by stringent bail conditions that include limits on their freedom of movement. This includes contact with colleagues, enforced home detention with frequent police visits, and having their mobile phones and other personal possessions confiscated.
Others said this shows how the anti-protest laws have emboldened police to act in ways which go well beyond the scope of even these repressive laws.