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Blockade Australia climate activist sentenced to three months in jail over Port of Newcastle protest
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Blockade Australia climate activist sentenced to three months in jail over Port of Newcastle protest

A 21-year-old woman who secured herself to a piece of machinery during a climate protest at a Newcastle coal terminal has been sentenced to three months in prison.

The climate protest, which is now in its 14th day and has involved daily actions, was organised by Blockade Australia to call for a change to the economic and political system to achieve meaningful climate action.

At least 30 people have been arrested since the protest began on 25 June for actions that have included standing atop trains and hanging suspended above railway lines.

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Laura Davy, who faced Newcastle local court on Monday, pleaded guilty to entering a major facility causing serious disruption and was sentenced to three months in prison. An appeal on the sentence has been filed.

Davey, who is from Tasmania and is one of many who have travelled interstate for the protest, also faced a $1,100 fine for entering inclosed non-agricultural lands.

Brad Homewood, a spokesperson for Blockade Australia, said it was the harshest penalty faced by the protesters so far, with most of the 30 arrested facing fines between $750 and $1,500.

“We’re shocked but not surprised because this is what we expect the state to do, to repress people in what we would call lawful protest and direct action,” he said.

Under anti-protest laws passed by the former NSW Coalition government in 2022 with the support of Labor, protesters who block major facilities – such as railways, ports, transport facilities or infrastructure – can face a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and $22,000 in fines. The laws are now being reviewed.

In December last year, the NSW supreme court found some subsections of the section of the Crimes Act that prohibits causing damage or serious disruption to a “major facility” were invalid because they infringed on the implied freedom of political communication.

The two-week-long protest is continuing and Blockade Australia has not said when it will end.

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On Monday a 32-year-old suspended themselves 10 metres above a railway line, blocking trains from passing through for five hours, according to Blockade Australia.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation confirmed 500 passenger trains had been cancelled since the protests began and condemned the actions as “illegal and dangerous”.

Police had sent additional resources to the region after it established Strike Force Tuohy to investigate the protest activity.

The police minister, Yasmin Catley, said last week the actions were “reckless” and had no place in NSW.

“This dangerous behaviour is putting not only the lives of workers and the public at risk, but the police officers tasked to respond,” Catley said.

Lydia Shelly, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the right to protest was not being protected in Australia.

“We think the [anti-protest] laws should be repealed immediately, there’s no place for these laws, particularly in NSW,” she said.

Source: theguardian.com