Media Statement: Millions say no to jailing of peaceful climate activists

More than 200 organisations, including, CIVICUS, UnionsNSW, Australian Conservation Foundation and Oxfam, as well as prominent individuals representing millions of people across the country have united to condemn the recent 15-month jail sentence for climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco in NSW and to express concern about increasing repression, including the recent introduction of new anti protest laws in multiple states.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said:

“We are seeing fundamental democratic principles stripped before our eyes at an alarming rate. Violet is the fifth person to receive a jail sentence in the last 12 months for peaceful climate activism, as repression mounts against community activists across the nation. She is one of thousands taking extraordinary action in the face of an urgent crisis.”

On 2 December, Coco, from Fireproof Australia, was sentenced to 15 months in custody with a non parole period of 8 months. Her appeal for bail will be heard on 13th December. 

Protestors from Fireproof Australia, Extinction Rebellion, Blockade Australia and Frontline Action on Coal and many more have engaged in peaceful civil disobedience in recent years in support of urgent action on climate change. Thousands have been involved, representing the voices of many more.

A solidarity action will take place outside Sydney’s Downing Centre Court on Tuesday morning at 9am.

Clancey Maher from Blockade Australia who is also charged under the NSW anti-protest laws said: 

“Repression will not cool the planet. Punitive laws will not slow the pace of environmental destruction. Incarceration will not  create a liveable planet. Collective resistance is vital and urgent.”

Blockade Australia activists Emma Dorge and Wenzel Auch also face custodial sentences arising from Port of Botany protests, at Downing Centre Court on Wednesday December 14 and Thursday December 15 respectively.

Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White said:

“The right to protest is a human right. No-one should be imprisoned for exercising this right, and Violet’s sentencing represents a concerning escalation in NSW’s crackdown on people’s right to protest, and that of others to address human rights abuses including climate inaction.” 

Karly Warner of Aboriginal Legal Service NSW said:

“The Aboriginal Legal Service was born out of a protest movement in the 1970s. You would be hard-pressed to find any win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights that wasn’t brought about by public protest.

“There is no climate justice without racial justice. The right to assemble and demonstrate in our streets, towns and cities is a fundamental cornerstone of democracy. For marginalised communities, public protests enable us to be seen and heard, even – and especially – when those in power would rather suppress our voices.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this government crackdown on our right to protest.”

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly Clement Voule recently raised concerns about the sentencing saying: “I am alarmed at NSW court's prison term against climate protester Deanna Coco and refusal to grant bail until a March 2023 appeal hearing. Peaceful protesters should never be criminalised or imprisoned”. 

Coco was charged with several offences, including disrupting vehicles, failing to comply with police direction and resisting or hindering police. The charges arose from her action blocking one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for approximately 25 minutes.

Vanessa Seagrove, Assistant Secretary of UnionsNSW said:

“Many unions will be in attendance at the protest tomorrow to support Violet. UnionsNSW condemns the imprisonment of environmental activist Violet Coco and demands her immediate release.  As a movement that was born out of protest we unanimously call for these laws to be repealed by law makers. The most important social changes have been achieved through protest with unions at the forefront of many of them.”’s Lucy Manne said: 

“It's outrageous that the state wastes resources seeking jail time and locking up peaceful protestors in custody at the expense of taxpayers. In contrast, fossil fuel corporations are contributing to climate collapse, yet have bi-partisan support for further mining and their subsidies continue at a rate of $22,000 a minute.”

The vast majority of Australians across the political spectrum support, and voted for, strong action on climate. People should not be concerned they could risk heavy penalties simply for taking to the streets. New anti-protest legislation in several states is wide open to police misinterpretation. NSW has already seen increased policing of peaceful NGO-led climate protests and police threats of invoking the laws against a wide variety of actions since their introduction in April. 

Josh Pallas, NSW Council for Civil Liberties said: 

“This state’s ongoing repression of protestors through parliament passing harsher laws, police seeking draconian bail conditions and surveilling protestors, and prosecutors seeking custodial sentences shows just how much contempt this government holds for protestors and the environment. The repression of peaceful protestors must end.” 



WHERE: Downing Street Court, 143-147 Liverpool Street Sydney

WHEN: Tuesday December 13 2022 09:00


  • Jay Labalestier, Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies (formerly Fireproof)
  • Vanessa Seagrove, Assistant Secretary Unions NSW
  • Paul Keating, Secretary MUA Sydney Branch
  • David Shoebridge, Greens Senator
  • Ethan Lyons, SS4C
  • Veronica Koman, Amnesty International Australia


Signatories to the open letter Australia

Dr David Abello, on behalf of the 78ers, the First Mardi Gras Inc

Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited

ACF Community Geelong

Action Ready

ADAC - A Different Approach Community


Amnesty International Australia

Andrew Denton

Animal Liberation NSW

Antipoverty Centre

Arid Lands Environment Centre

Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas and Mining

Arshak Makichyan

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)

Australian Communist Party

Australian Conservation Foundation

Australian Democracy Network

Australian Forests and Climate Alliance

Australian Lawyers Alliance

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (NSW State Division)

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union 


Australian Marine Conservation Society

Australian Nonviolence Projects

Australian Progress

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Australian Services Union NSW ACT (Services) Branch

Australian Services Union Victorian Private Sector Branch

Australian Unemployed Workers' Union

Australian Youth Climate Coalition

Author - The 99th Koala

Bayside Climate Crisis Action Group

Bellingen Activist Network

Beyond Gas Network

Beyond War

Black Flag Sydney

Black Wallaby Forest Action

Blockade Australia

Bob Brown Foundation

Dr Luke Buckmaster

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action

Caldera Environment Centre

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law (Monash University)

Central Victoria Climate Action

Centre for Climate Safety

CFMEU Construction and General Division

Chipstop Campaign Against Woodchipping

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Cristy Clark



Climate Action Monaro

Climate Action Network Australia

Climate Action Radio Show

Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA)

Climate Change Action Network

Climate Council of Australia

Climate for Change

Climate Justice Programme

Climate Justice Union

Commons Social Change Library

Comms Declare

Community Action for Rainbow Rights

Community Legal Centres Australia

Community Legal Centres NSW

Community Power Agency

Conservation Council ACT Region

Conservation Council of SA

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA)

CoPower (Co-operative Power Australia)


Darebin Climate Action Now

Defend the Right to Protest

Digital Rights Watch

Do Gooder

Drum Rebellion

East Gippsland Climate Action Network

Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education

Environment Centre NT Inc

Environment East Gippsland inc

Environment Victoria

Environmental Justice Australia

Environs Kimberley

Extinction Rebellion Australia

Extinction Rebellion Cairns

Fireproof Australia

First Dog on the Moon

FlightFree Australia

Flinders University

Frenzal Rhomb

Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth Melbourne

Friends of the Forest - Mogo

Frontline Action on Coal

Galilee Rising

Geelong Sustainability


El Gibbs, writer, disability advocate

Glen Eira Emergency Climate Action Network (GECAN)

Goongerah Environment Centre


Grassroots Action Network Tasmania

Grata Fund

Green Institute

Green Music Australia

Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Gudanji For Country

Heal the Earth Now (international)

Healthy Connection For All

Dr Tamar Hopkins

Human Rights Law Centre

Dr Rebecca Huntley, Author,”How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference”

Dan Ilic

Institute of Collaborative Race Research

International PEN Melbourne Centre

International Service for Human Rights

Jews Against Fascism

Ketan Joshi, Author “Windfall: Unlocking a fossil free future”

Jumbunna Research, UTS

Justice Reform Initiative

Knitting Nanas Hunter Loop

Sydney Knitting Nannas & Friends

Kooyong Climate Change Alliance

Lane Cove Sustainability Action Group

Carmen Lawrence, academic, Ex WA Premier, Head Australian Labor Party

Legal Observers NSW

Liberty Victoria

Lighter Footprints

Lincoln Ave Progressives


Loud Jew Collective

Mackay Conservation Group

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre

Maritime Union of Australia (Sydney Branch)

Melbourne Activist Legal Support

Muslim Collective

Nannas for Native Forests

National Justice Project

National Tertiary Education Union (NSW)

Nature Conservation Council NSW

George Newhouse, Adjunct professor

Nillumbik Climate Action Team

North East Forest Alliance

North Queensland Conservation Council

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Claire O’Rourke

Oxfam Australia

PASA (Philippines Australia Solidarity Association)

Paul Gilding

Pax Christi Australia

Peace in Papua

People’s Climate Assembly

Peter Garret

Pride In Protest

Progressive Cinema, Armidale, NSW

Proposition One Campaign for a Nuclear-Free Future

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Services International (Asia Pacific Regional Office)

Queensland Conservation Council

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties

Redfern Legal Centre

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU)

Rising Tide

Save the Bay Coalition

School Strike 4 Climate

Scientists Warning Foundation, California, US

Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Ltd

Socialist Alliance

South East Forest Rescue

South East Region Conservation Alliance (SERCA)

Anna Spargo-Ryan, Writer / A Kind of Magic

Spirit of Eureka SA

Dr Joan Staples

Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Stop Russell Vale Mine

Sweltering Cities

Tom Tanuki

The Australia Institute Tasmania

The Future Makers

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Sydney Branch

The Sunrise Project

The Sustainable Hour Podcast

The Wilderness Society

Tomorrow Movement

Transition Streets Geelong


Uni Students for Climate Justice

United Workers Union

University of Melbourne Student Union Environment Department

UNSW Centre for Crime, Law and Justice

UTS Criminal Justice Cluster

Victorian Pride Lobby

Victorian Socialists

Vote Climate

Vote Earth Now

Wage Peace

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance VIC

Water for Rivers

What Can I Do? Australia

White Rose Society Australia

Wollongong Against War and Nuclear weapons (WAWAN)

Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA)

Women’s Justice Network

Workers for Climate Action

World Animal Protection

WSU Network for Law and Human Rights

Yarra Climate Action Now

Yassmin Abdel-Magied


Additional quotes 

Darren Greenfield State Secretary CFMEU C&G NSW 

“It is a disgrace that in NSW a young woman is facing up to 15 months in jail for a protest that blocked traffic for 25 minutes. The right to protest is an essential part of a functioning democracy and one which trade unionists have fought hard to safeguard all around the world. The jailing of Violet Coco shows this right is under attack in NSW today. Public protest has a long and proud history in NSW and has helped shape our state for the better” 

First Mardi Gras Inc. - a community association for 78ers 

If these laws were in place in 1978 we would have all ended up in gaol. As it was many of us did. Under the provisions of the NSW Summary Offences Act police were able to shut down protests, to judge whether a person's behaviour was offensive or not, and to entrap gay men with contrived homosexual advances. At the time there were over 100 convictions every year for sexual assault of a male person in NSW. Many ended with gaol terms of up to 14 years and others accepted court-directed homosexual aversion therapy. Radical social movements changed everything. They didn't have liability insurance or permission from the state. 

Thea Ormerod (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change) 

"Like MLK and Gandhi, Violet Coco took a courageous, nonviolent stand for the common good. People were inconvenienced, not harmed. It's so wrong that she is jailed for advocating for a liveable planet, while the people who legislated these excessive penalties are jeopardising our future by allowing the expansion of coal and gas mining." 

Kerry Weste, President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR)

"Every single adult and child in New South Wales has a fundamental human right to peaceful assembly. Australia is bound by international law to uphold this right which extends to all gatherings for peaceful purposes, regardless of the degree of public support. Importantly, the right to peaceful assembly can only be legally limited in ways that are strictly necessary and proportionate. These measures were rammed through the NSW Parliament without any adequate scrutiny or consultation. We now see Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco, refused Bail in circumstances where it would normally be granted and sentenced to 456 days in prison for stopping traffic for 25 minutes. It is impossible for the NSW Government or the Opposition to establish that these measures meet these necessity and proportionality thresholds established under international human right law," 

Amelia Young, National Campaigns Director, Wilderness Society 

"In the early 1980s the Wilderness Society originated out of one of the most massive acts of civil disobedience in Australia's history, the campaign to save the Franklin River. Peaceful, non-violent protest is an essential part of a functioning democracy. Without it, today the Franklin River would be dammed, and other natural wonders like Kakadu, K-gari / Fraser Island, Walmadany / James Price Point, and old growth forests the breadth of this continent would be destroyed. If the Franklin protest happened today, conservationists would be jailed for months to years, not days to weeks—yet, the threats facing nature and people are even more urgent."