Media Statement: NSW Police forced to withdraw false allegations against peaceful protesters

Today in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court protesters, Alan Glover and Karen Fitz-Gibbon, were sentenced on pleas of guilty to charges arising from blocking one lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for about 30 minutes in April of 2022.  This afternoon, both received 18 month Community Correction Orders with a fine of $3000 each.  

The police’s initial allegation that the protest blocked an ambulance with its sirens on was withdrawn in court. That allegation contributed to the Court decisions last year to impose harsh bail conditions and previously unheard of custodial sentences for non-violent, peaceful protesters who were co-defendants of the people sentenced today.

Magistrate Daniel Riess noted that ‘Violet’ Deanna Coco and Jay Larbalestier has both been sentenced of the “false ambulance assertion” and that “no emergency vehicles were obstructed”. The police have now withdrawn the allegation that the protest hindered any ambulance.

Josh Pallas, President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties said, “We have fought the slow repression of police and the state in cracking down on protest every step of the way. But the fight is hard when the government is protecting mining and business interests and when the mainstream media side with government and large corporates with vested interests to stifle the right to protest.”

“This is an outrageous case of the police misstating the facts which have been consequential in the sentences of others. The police have offered no justification for this misstatement of facts. They must be held accountable and at the very least, explain how they got this so wrong.”

“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.”

“These cases provide yet another example of why everyone should be concerned about increasing repression of public assemblies and protests in NSW and elsewhere around the country. The right to protest and public assembly is an essential democratic right. Stifling protest stifles freedom of expression. Enough is enough, the government and the police must respect the right to protest and be accountable for their actions.”

For more information, read our full media statement.