Climate activists Violet Coco, Brad Homewood are heroes, not criminals

March 25, 2024
Protesting for the climate last December in Gadigal/Sydney. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Climate activists Violet Coco and Brad Homewood were sentenced to jail for two months on March 19 for taking direct action to highlight the plight of the planet.

Coco, Homewood and another Extinction Rebellion activist, 68-year-old Joseph Zammit, blocked three lanes of a five-lane highway on the West Gate Bridge, Melbourne/Naarm on March 5, with a large truck adorned with “Business as usual = death sentence” and “Climate breakdown has begun”.

The protesters had deliberately left two lanes free for emergencies. However, Victoria Police closed them off.

The action was timed to coincide with the second day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting.

Coco, Homewood and Zammit’s banner reflected NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus’s call to halt all burning of fossil fuels.

County Court judge David Sexton made it clear the draconian sentence was to deter other activists.

“Each of you deliberately and flagrantly broke the law … A message must be sent to like-minded people not to engage in this type of illegality.”

Such a harsh sentence shows that the judicial system under capitalism is not politically neutral.

Laws are made by the rich and powerful, and the courts rule on their behalf: judges and magistrates belittle, fine and jail activists challenging the rule of the billionaire class.

Coco, Homewood and Zammit are not criminals: they are among the many taking action as a warning about how to avert a climate collapse.

The real criminals are the fossil fuel companies and the political parties that back them.

Predictably the establishment media, including Sky News and the Herald Sun, ran beat-ups about criminals blocking roads, omitting to mention the police had closed two lanes.

After hearing from Ambulance Victoria that a pregnant woman had to give birth on the side of the road, Coco said she was “deeply sorry”. She said the activists had planned their action in the knowledge that with hospitals on either side of the bridge, and with two lanes clear, there would not be an emergency.

Outside court, Coco held a sign saying “no new coal, oil or gas”.

Demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, Coco and Homewood wore their keffiyehs at the action and in court.

Zammit was granted bail and will return to court in late April.

Civil liberties groups including Liberty Victoria, Environmental Justice Australia, Amnesty International Australia, Pax Christi, Australian Democracy Network and Melbourne Activist Legal Support have called on Labor to ensure that the right to protest is respected.

Victorian police minister Anthony Carbines labelled the protestors “idiots” and lied about them blocking all the lanes.

Draconian anti protest laws aimed at criminalising climate activists help divert attention from the crime of making climate change worse.

Labor is busy approving new coal mines and more than 10 fossil fuel projects. It still subsidises fossil fuel companies more than $21,000 every minute of every day.

Labor will only be stopped by much stronger climate movement, in which protesters taking direct action for the planet, are defended.

[Solidarity emails can be sent to Violet CoCo and Brad Homewood at]

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