Activists in Queensland say that the worst-case scenario is not going to jail, but rather facing the consequences of climate breakdown. As they prepare to appear in court, they express their concerns about the urgent need to address the issue.
On Monday, Rob Keller, a 73-year-old who used to be a teacher and now runs a small business, will go to Brisbane magistrates court where he may be sentenced to up to three years in jail.
However, that is not his primary concern.
According to him, the most dire outcome is not imprisonment but rather the breakdown of the climate.
Keller is among a group of 14 environmental advocates who are facing the possibility of being imprisoned as they appear in court for charges related to their disruptive demonstration at Queensland’s parliament in November of last year.
The group displayed signs denouncing the use of fossil fuels from the public viewing area and disrupted the question and answer session by loudly chanting for approximately three minutes.
Included in their group are former faculty members, healthcare experts, employed educators, and independent entrepreneurs. While they may not be hardened offenders, the idea of being imprisoned is not something unfamiliar to them.
For over 10 months, everyone has had to deal with the repercussions of being on bail. Some faced the risk of losing their jobs, while others were unable to get insurance for their homes.
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David Rasborsek, 59, and his mother, Judith, who is 88 years old, have been accused of disrupting the legislative body. This charge has not been used since the time of the oppressive premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
In June, Rasborsek was held in the watch house for a week due to a climate protest that involved blocking traffic. He emphasized that the possibility of being imprisoned is a serious matter to him.
The speaker states that prisons and watch houses are hazardous environments where people frequently lose their lives. They express a strong desire to avoid returning to such a place.
The oldest of the 14 accused, his mother, is ready to accept any consequences that may arise.
She admits she doesn’t want to end up in prison, but if that’s the consequence, she accepts it. She feels like there are no other options.
Fourteen individuals are familiar with other activists who have been imprisoned for their involvement in climate protests. They also mention a growing trend of oppressive treatment towards activists across the nation.
According to Rasborsek, one of his acquaintances in Sydney was incarcerated for several months due to his involvement in a Blockade Australia demonstration. He also suffered physical abuse during his time in prison.
Of their fellow activists with experience behind bars, none is more prominent than Violet Coco. Coco, who will attend the Brisbane magistrates court on Monday in a show of solidarity, was sentenced to 15 months in jail for blocking one lane of traffic in Sydney last April. Her sentence was quashed on appeal.
One of the Queensland 14, Lee Coaldrake, states that it was extremely traumatic for her.
Coaldrake, a retired anaesthetist, is the spouse of Peter, the former vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology. Last year, Peter conducted a review on the integrity of the public service and the Queensland government.
She claims that being incarcerated is a life-changing event, but one must remain determined.
Prison pales in comparison to the impending global disaster of climate change.
Coaldrake states that being imprisoned will not affect him, and he is willing to go to jail if it benefits others.
According to Keller, even if the decision is made, all 14 individuals are expected to continue to show no regret or repentance.
He claims that the government is the one acting as criminals, not him. Even if he were to be imprisoned, he would not view himself as the criminal. He firmly believes that they are the ones committing the crimes.
The Environmental Defenders Office will represent the 14 individuals and enter a plea of not guilty.
In addition to disrupting the legislative process, some of the individuals involved are also being charged for using recording equipment and bringing props into the parliament building during the protest.