Australia

Coal protester sentenced to 12 months in jail over Newcastle train blockade

Standing on top of the coal train, Mr Herbert said in an earlier Facebook livestream: “We’re taking our future back.”

“When the government decides it’s going to destroy its people, the people will rise up.”

The first week of protests earlier this month, led by the Blockade Australia group, saw activists blocking railway tracks near the Port of Newcastle. The following week, they entered the port and stopped machinery from operating.

Blockade Australia said they learned about the sentencing last night.

“We are really, really concerned about this. He’s the first climate activist [in our movement] that’s been jailed for that length of time,” Zianna Fuad, an activist from Blockade Australia, told SBS News.

“I would see him as one of the first political prisoners that we’ve had in Australia on activism … which is really alarming.”

Ms Fuad decried the police response to the protests, with police setting up Strike Force Tuohy to target anti-coal protesters and threatening them with potential jail sentences up to 25 years.

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She said protesters had blocked coal operations for a total of 65 hours and that 28 activists had been arrested in the course of the protests.

“We’re not going to kind of cave into fear tactics,” she said.

“We’re used to state repression as activists. We know that our actions are safe … and that they’re trying to discourage us from further action.”

Commissioner Mick Fuller said last week that the protesters “are coming from other states and territories with particular expertise and they’re locking themselves onto these locomotives and tracks”.

Many of the protesters are young and "frustrated" with a lack of climate action by the governmnent.

Source: Twitter/Blockade Australia


He said the “young ladies who were given bail yesterday and walked out of court laughing” would face charges that carry a maximum 25-year sentence.

“These matters will hopefully hold up in court,” he told Sydney radio 2GB station on Tuesday.

A person who interferes with a railway or locomotive “with the intention of causing the death of, inflicting bodily injury on or endangering the safety of any person who is on the railway” can be jailed for up to 25 years, according to the NSW Crimes Act.

“If you think about the danger that some of these passenger trains on those lines travelling at 160km/h … you could see hundreds of people die,” Mr Fuller said.

Police Minister David Elliott also hit back at the protesters last week. He said the government “will not tolerate protesters undermining commuter activities and causing significant damage to these local industries which employ people from across the region”.

But Ms Fuad said protesters were taking direct action as they felt unheard. She said many of the protesters were young Australians who felt frustrated by the government’s lack of climate action.

“As young people, we are really aware that we don’t have much of a future if we continue on this trajectory. And we’re really frustrated with the mechanisms that were given,” she said.

“We don’t think voting is going to save the climate crisis. We don’t believe that any party is going to be able to pull us out of this mess. We think that the community needs to rise up.

Ms Fuad said Australia was seen as “climate blockers” on the international stage and “fuelling the climate crisis”.

SBS News contacted NSW Police for comment, who referred to previous statements they had made on the issue.

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