Deanna Coco's 15 month sentence is "outrageous" and "alarming"

Climate activist Deanna Coco’s 15 month sentence is “outrageous” and “alarming”


Reactions have been swift and severe after environmental protester Deanna Coco was sentenced to 15 months prison last week for her actions on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April, when she blocked a lane of traffic with a hired truck as part of the Fireproof Australia movement.

Despite NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s reactions — after he called the sentencing “pleasing to see”, during a press conference earlier this week — human rights groups, including the UN, have condemned the punishment.

The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, Clément Voule, said he was “alarmed” by the sentence. 

Coco received a non-parol period of eight months’ jail, and a $2500 fine. She will remain in custody until March when the courts will consider bail. 

“Peaceful protesters should never be criminalised or imprisoned,” Voule said on Twitter. 

Journalist Sophie McNeill called the decision “outrageous”, tweeting, “It’s clear climate protesters are being targeted for disproportionate punishment.”

Another Twitter user commented: “This is an outrageous abuse of power. Our govts are becoming increasingly autocratic in nature. My gratitude to Deanna Coco for what she’s doing for our planet.”

Director of the International Service for Human Rights, Phil Lynch, told the Guardian that peaceful protest was a fundamental human right.

“Protesting for climate justice is a moral right,” he said. “Australia’s criminalisation and jailing of people for exercising this right is illegal under international law and morally indefensible.”

Political scientist Cecilia Angulo said the sentencing demonstrates how “absurd” the society is.

“Governments’ false promises and lack of real commitment to climate change forced people to take this kind of actions,” she tweeted. “Now they put her #DeannaCoco in prison! Fighting for the environment is not a crime.”

On the morning of April 13, Coco stopped a truck she’d hired on a southbound lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and climbed on the roof, where she proceeded to set off a flare. She was accompanied by three other Fireproof Australia activists — one who held up a banner and another who glued themselves to the road. 

Just two weeks prior, NSW government introduced new laws that increased punishments for non-violent protesters with fines of up to $22,000 and two years in jail for people who engage in blocked roads, ports, or other major infrastructure such as train lines that “seriously disrupts or obstructs vehicles or pedestrians”.

On Monday, Premier Perrottet told reporters the sentence was “not excessive”, warning demonstrators not to engage in protests “inconvenience people”.

“If protesters want to put our way of life at risk, then they should have the book thrown at them and that’s pleasing to see,” Perrottet said.

“We want people to be able to protest but do it in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people right across NSW.”

“My view is that those protests literally started to grind our city to a halt. The clear message here, and it is a clear lesson – everyone has the right to protest, but do so in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people.”


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