Court convicts Climate Camp protesters

Protest action during Climate Camp 2010. Photo: Climate Camp NSW/Flickr

Seventy-three people who took part in a non-violent direct action protest during December’s Climate Camp appeared in Muswellbrook local court on January 31 to answer to charges under the Rail Safety Offences Act.

Hundreds of climate protesters gathered at Climate Camp for five days of talks, debates and discussions on the best ways for the community to stop the proposed expansion of Bayswater coal-fired power station. The station is already one of Australia’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

The activists called on the NSW government to abandon its plan to build the Bayswater B plant — a new coal-fired power station that will rival the size of the existing plant.

The Bayswater B expansion is now being contested in the Land and Environment Court.

During Climate Camp, more than 100 people walked onto and occupied a train line used to transport coal to the power station. They peacefully occupied the train tracks for eight hours.

Seventy-three protesters calmly chose to be arrested at the action. Those charged included local residents, parents, students, workers, activists and an 88-year-old war veteran.

The court fined each protester $250. All will have the conviction recorded on their permanent criminal record.

Adam Leeman, one of the defendants, told Green Left Weekly he had no regrets about taking part in the protest: “Getting arrested was not a decision I took lightly, but this issue is too important to sit back and do nothing.

“I felt morally compelled to act. I would encourage more people to consider taking whatever action they can to help combat runaway climate change.”

Leeman said he pleaded guilty “because I am proud to have stood up against the NSW government’s [Bayswater B] proposal, which would lead to a 15% increase in the state’s emissions".

“It is clear that the laws protect companies and industry that do irreparable damage to the environment and the local community’s health,” Leeman said.

“I feel that it was unreasonable that when the vast majority of people that appeared before the court had no previous convictions that a conviction was recorded and we received a fine.

“I plan to appeal this decision. I expect that most of us will appeal."