Statement on the sentencing of climate activist Violet Coco

SYDNEY, 7 December 2022 - The following statement is attributable to David Ritter, Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to democracy. Many of the freedoms and rights we cherish as Australians were won and defended through peaceful protest: women’s right to vote, employee’s rights, LGBTIQ+ rights, and the saving of so much of our magnificent environmental heritage, from the Franklin to Kakadu, to name some.

The sweeping new laws that have seen climate activist Violet Coco sentenced to 15 months in prison were rushed through in a chilling and knee-jerk response to ongoing peaceful protests, and are the latest in a suite of increasingly draconian measures introduced in Australia, designed to curtail peaceful public dissent.

What these laws fail to acknowledge is that climate activism does not exist in a vacuum. People are feeling compelled to take a stand only because of the fossil fuel industry’s wanton and knowing destruction of our right to a safe climate over the past 50 years. 

While tactics and approaches to climate advocacy may differ, and there are legitimate differences of opinion on what forms of advocacy are most effective for winning hearts and minds, the fact remains that the inconvenience caused by the climate crisis – catastrophic floods, fires and storms destroying homes, livelihoods, and entire communities – staggeringly outweighs the inconvenience of one climate protester blocking one lane of traffic for 25 minutes. 

What we must remember is that climate change isn’t happening to us, it’s being done to us. It’s being done to us by the executives of the fossil fuel corporations, and they know it. Just as Ms Coco knew that her act of protest would disrupt one lane of traffic, these executives know that their relentless pursuit of profit is disrupting the lives of billions of people and every species of life on our entire planet.


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