Free Violet Coco!
Written by: Nick G. on 6 December 2022
(Above: Original photo"JMP_4925 XR" by Julian Meehan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)
Extinction Rebellion activist Violet Coco has been jailed for 15 months, with a non-parole period of eight months, for stopping traffic in Sydney to protest against climate change.
Her sentence is so draconian that UN Human Rights Watch has found that authorities in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) are disproportionately punishing climate protesters in violation of their basic rights to peaceful protest. Their research has shown that magistrates in NSW have been imposing harsh penalties and bail conditions on climate protesters that violate basic rights.
NSW has some of the most draconian anti-protest laws in the country. This is probably one of the reasons Sydney has been chosen to host the Quad meeting in late May early June next year which will be attended by Quad heads of states, including Biden with dozens of his security agents and vehicles. Expect parts of Sydney to be off limits to the public and the police out in full force, - helicopters and drones over many parts of Sydney, police everywhere, etc.
Victoria is not far behind with anti-protest laws, particularly against environmentalists campaigning to protect old growth forests from logging in the state.
Many of these anti-protest laws and increasing powers to police and army were brought in during Covid. In spite of promising that these laws and increases in powers to police and the army were only temporary measures for the duration of Covid lock downs, they are still on the books, and now being used against environmentalists and others - as warned by many democratic rights and civil liberties campaigners and lawyers.
Violet’s sentence -for stopping a truck on Sydney Harbour bridge – is precisely the outcome demanded by current Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, when in 2019, as then Home Affairs Minister, he attacked Extinction Rebellion protestors in Brisbane. He called for indefinite prison sentences (“jailed until their behaviour changes”) and the cancellation of any welfare payments. He also urged people to “surveil the protesters and distribute their images.” Citizens should name and shame them, he said.
During the Howard years, coercive legislation became the norm under the guise of combatting terrorism.
Stuart Rees OAM, Professor Emeritus, at the University of Sydney warned in 2021: “In the six years after 9/11, the Howard government pushed through a new anti-terrorist statute almost every seven weeks. Constitutional lawyer George Williams reveals that 60 counter terrorism laws have included provision for warrantless searches, the banning of organisations, the secret detention and interrogation of non-suspected citizens by ASIO. Barrister Greg Barns has recorded the ACT Ombudsman’s judgement that between 2015 and 2019, the Australian Federal Police accessed location information about individuals 1700 times but on only nine occasions did they comply with the law.”
Extinction Rebellion activists may inconvenience people from time to time by their tactics, but they are not terrorists. Laws punishing them as severely as Violet Coco has been must be torn up.
Extinction Rebellion is pursuing the same objective as those who participated in the great Moratorium demonstrations against the US war of aggression in Vietnam. The Moratoriums sought to “Stop the Country, to Stop the War”. Extinction Rebellion seeks to “Stop the City to Save the Planet”.
Coco has courageously thrown down the gauntlet to the powers that be, declaring:
"In light of the urgency of the situation, I feel I have to do the most effective thing in bringing about political change.
History has shown that at times of great crisis, when regular political procedure has proven incapable of enacting justice, it falls to ordinary people taking a stand to bring about change through civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience in the form of strikes, blockades, marches and occupations have played a crucial role in the development of democracy, and helped to secure precious rights here and around the world - including women’s suffrage, 8-hour working days, racial legal equality and environmental protections."
Remove oppressive laws!
Support the right to protest!
Free Violet Coco!
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