Climate activists celebrated the Lismore Local Court decision on September 27 to drop all charges against Mali Cooper relating to Blockade Australia protests in June.
They were charged with blocking traffic in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel as part of a week of disruptive action to draw attention to the escalating climate disaster.
Police were heavy handed, even before the week of action. Extremely punitive bail conditions were imposed on those arrested for little more than attending the protests.
“I have watched the town [of Lismore] I love be decimated by a climate disaster,” Cooper said. Lismore flooded twice in the lead-up to the June protests.
“If we stand together and resist through direct action, we have the best chance of turning this destruction around,” Cooper said.
The charges were dismissed because the court “gave full consideration” to Cooper’s mental health, which included a clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder after the Lismore floods, lawyer Mark Davis said.
This means the decision will not necessarily become a precedent for other arrestees who will also face the courts.
As with Cooper, the coming cases will test the New South Wales government’s draconian anti-protest laws.
Activists potentially face two years in prison and $22,000 fines. Before the new laws were enacted, Cooper’s alleged offence would have faced a maximum penalty of a $440 fine.
Davis described the “extraordinarily repressive piece of legislation” as “unbecoming of Australia and the conventions that we normally follow.
“It’s off the charts. It was great to see it avoided today.”
Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion activist Carmen Stobaus was acquitted on September 27 in Western Australia. Stobaus was charged with writing chalk messages on a footbridge near the Woodside office in Perth in August last year.
Prosecutors failed to prove who owned the footbridge, meaning there was not enough evidence for a conviction.
Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Sam Wainwright welcomed the acquittals but told Green Left the pushback against anti-protest laws needs to continue until they are repealed.
“Governments are so committed to protecting the interests of fossil fuel corporations, they are willing to launch anti-democratic assaults on the climate movement,” he said.
“Our answer has to be mass resistance and protest, such as the climate actions planned around the November COP27 climate summit.”