Charges dropped against XR, magistrates uphold the role of civil disobedience for social change
By Extinction Rebellion, on 23 June 2021
Extinction Rebellion celebrated as charges were dropped against protestors in Sydney, Canberra and Hobart court appearances.
On Monday 21 June, five Extinction Rebellion activists appeared before Downing Centre court in Sydney on charges related to their topless protest at the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) offices in Elizabeth St, Sydney, in October 2020 following the IPC’s controversial approval of the Santos Narrabri Gas project.
In the morning before court, police prosecution dropped the damage charges for spray chalking and obscene exposure. The Magistrate delivered all five of the accused ‘no convictions’ as they plead guilty to the charges. Three of them are pending six-month good behaviour bonds.
The Magistrate appeared sympathetic, referring to his fondness for David Attenborough, saying “his word is gospel”.
\ Speaking outside court, XR rebel Violet Coco was triumphant:
“We’re pretty excited and elated as the trend of ‘no convictions’ and light sentences travels around Australian courts as we protest against the climate and ecological breakdown. Today five rebels received ‘no conviction’ which is strengthening our conviction to rebel and to fight against the system that is destroying the habitability of our planet.”
\ Similar outcomes were also achieved in the ACT and Tasmania over the past week as Extinction Rebellion members faced court for previous disruptive actions.
On Monday, 21 June, in the ACT a young rebel, Mary Christie, who attached herself to a truck, blocking the road in Canberra during budget week, had her charges dismissed.
\ In Hobart on the 18th of June 2021, 15 conscientious earth protectors faced the Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to two charges of obstructing traffic and failing to comply with a police direction. Rebels were sentenced with a fine of $150 plus $68 court costs, with no convictions recorded.
The Magistrate considered common law precedents in his decision by referring to the important role of civil disobedience in bringing about social change. He stated that he was required to sentence in a way that was proportionate to the minimal harm caused by the protesting in the community in addition to acknowledging the integrity of this method of political civic engagement. He also referred to the significant role of nonviolent direct action in building the Tasmania that we enjoy today.
Extinction Rebellion Tasmania respects the Magistrate's decision and applauds his references to the important role of civil disobedience in creating a better world.
The Extinction Rebellion activists had put their bodies on the line to demand that governments listen to the science regarding ecological and climate breakdown. The citizens' ages range from 8 to 81, and sought to be recognised in their sentencing for the community work that they do.
Elizabeth Perey, a retired grandmother explained her decision to protest:
"I am an 81 year old grandmother. For many years I had my own 2nd hand and antiquarian bookshop near Sydney. Now retired.
I follow the science of the climate crisis and it terrifies me. Our governments are not acting on the scientific evidence, and they are not listening to us. I have marched in the streets. I have rung politicians, written letters to the media and to politicians. I now feel all I have left to try and make my voice heard is non-violent civil disobedience.
I am guilty of deliberately and knowingly getting myself arrested in the hope I will be heard.”
Another protestor, Robert Cooper said he was uncomfortable protesting but felt he had no choice:
"My acute discomfort caused by participation in a public protest is outweighed by the guilt I feel for not doing enough toward preventing a climate and ecological collapse, with its catastrophic consequences"
Extinction Rebellion is a global and politically non-partisan movement where we use civil disobedience and non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act justly on the climate and ecological crisis.
Getting arrested is one of the tactics used by Extinction Rebellion globally. Thousands of people have been arrested in the UK, where Extinction Rebellion began. Volunteering to get arrested is a powerful way for rebels to show how serious the climate and ecological emergency is and to get governments to respond.
But arrests are not the only way to protest. At XR everyone is welcome and there are many roles to fill, both big and small.