A 22-year-old climate activist attempting to block coal trains at the Port of Newcastle has been sentenced to a whopping 12 months in prison.
Eric Serge Herbert will serve at least six months in jail after being sentenced at Newcastle Local Court yesterday.
Herbert was first arrested more than a week ago for obstructing a railway locomotive and sentenced to a community corrections order. He was then arrested while walking in a nearby national park on Kooragang Island this week for allegedly breaking that order.
He was charged with attempt to hinder working mining equipment and attempt to assist in obstruction of railway locomotive.
Herbert is one of 29 Blockade Australia activists who have been arrested at the coal port – the largest in the world – over the past two weeks for blockading trains and shutting down machinery, bringing operations to a standstill.
Herbert had previously received minor fines and charges for his activism, including a six-month probation for locking himself to a car outside Queensland’s parliament in 2019.
BREAKING: Sergeio, 22, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison, 6 months no parole, for direct action at the world’s biggest coal port.
He said: “We’re taking our future back. When Australia decides it’s going to destroy it’s people through ecocide, the people will rise up”. pic.twitter.com/TZVKt8v6Kc
— Blockade Australia (@BlockadeAus) November 22, 2021
Activists told PEDESTRIAN the aim of the action was to hit the government where it hurts, in their beloved fossil fuel sites, and a very angry Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce estimated that the first 10 days of protests cost Australia’s coal export industry $60 million.
So far, activists have been handed sentences including fines, community corrections orders and non-association orders, but this is the first imprisonment.
Protestors in Australia are very rarely sentenced to prison time as protesting is common law right. But because Australia doesn’t have a bill of rights or a human rights act like many other countries, different states and jurisdictions can take different approaches.
Last week, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller established a dedicated police taskforce and threatened activists with additional railway offences that carry a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
But for someone whose actions have been non-violent, Blockade Australia says Herbert’s sentence is extreme.
“Obviously it’s an extreme sentence for a 22-year-old person that’s only taken part in non-violent direct action,” Blockade Australia spokesperson Zianna Fuad told PEDESTRIAN.
“We’re deeply concerned about the increased state of oppression. It’s become more obvious to us that Australia wants to preserve itself. It really fits our view that our democracy is rigged.”
In comparison, a key organiser of Sydney’s anti-lockdown protests in July was sentenced to a maximum of eight months in prison, with three-months non-parole, for planning the “unauthorised” demonstration as well as multiple breaches of public health orders.
Fuad says the sentence could deter people from joining their movement, but that it could also have the opposite effect.
“We’re very aware that this is actually a fear tactic,” she said.
“We hope that them going this hard will backfire on them and make more people stand up.
“If there’s more people taking this action they’re less likely to come out with these harsh sentences.”
IN MORE FKD NEWS:
Australia’s biggest oil and gas development in more than 10 years has today been given the green light to be constructed off the coast of WA, despite experts saying the world can have no more fossil fuel developments if we’re going to reach net zero by 2050.
The $16.5 billion Woodside BHP Scarborough gas project upgrades the Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility near Karratha.
Construction will involve a 430-kilometre pipeline and a second production train at the LNG processing plant.
Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill said in a statement that the project was important to the company’s future by providing cashflow to fund future developments “for decades to come”. Yikes.
Premier Mark McGowan welcomed the announcement with a lot of blah blah blah.
This approval has been absolutely panned by climate groups and experts, with the Conservation Council of WA calling it a disaster for the climate, the marine life and the globally significant Aboriginal heritage on the Burrup Peninsula.
I think the director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, Dan Gocher, put it best: “What part of ‘No new fossil fuel projects’ doesn’t Woodside understand?”