Climate activist Violet Coco has been released, after a successful appeal on March 15 of her 15-month jail sentence for blocking one lane of traffic for about 30 minutes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge last April.
Coco and volunteer firefighter Alan Glover climbed onto the roof of a small truck and ignited an emergency flare to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand more funding for firefighting services and the rehoming of people displaced by floods and fires.
Coco has been freed on a 12-month conditional release order, but remains with the convictions of resisting police and using an unauthorised explosive. Glover also successfully appealed his 18-month community corrections order.
Coco was one of the first to be sentenced under the New South Wales Coalition government’s anti-protest laws — introduced last year with Labor’s support — under which people can be fined up to $22,000 and jailed for two years for peacefully protesting on or around public infrastructure.
The laws have been widely condemned by human rights groups, activists and lawyers for violating the basic right to protest and disproportionately targeting climate activists.
During the hearing, the court heard that NSW Police lied about an ambulance being prevented from attending an emergency due to the protest, which significantly influenced the court’s previous decision to impose harsh bail conditions and sentencing.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties President Josh Pallas said that revelations of police using false information in their case against Coco is “shocking”.
“The police have offered no justification for this misstatement of facts,” Pallas said. “They must be held accountable and at the very least, explain how they got this so wrong.”
Pallas criticised the NSW government’s repressive laws being used to target peaceful protesters: “The current anti-protest laws fly in the face of what civil society, trade unions and religious groups all fight for.”
“Climate protesters are being increasingly and disproportionately subjected to punitive legal action by Australian authorities and this has taken that legal action to a new extreme.”
About 100 people protested outside the Downing Centre Court before the appeal, calling for Coco to be freed and for the anti-protest laws to be scrapped.
After the appeal, Coco told the press and supporters she would be pursuing compensation against police after her treatment in prison.
Coco said she plans to “keep continuing to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological emergency to avert billions of deaths”.