The criminalisation of peaceful protesters and the excessive response to non-violent civil disobedience has escalated and it needs to end. Protest and acts of nonviolent civil disobedience are vital parts of a mature and responsible democracy and we need to act to protect these fundamental rights.
In recent months we have seen:
- Climate protester Deanna “Violet” Coco was sentenced to two years in prison for blocking one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 15 minutes;
- Peaceful Sydney protester Danny Lim was violently assaulted by NSW Police when they slammed him to the ground face first, landing him in hospital, for not moving on from standing in a public place with a sign;
- Housing advocate Cherish Kuehlmann was arrested and taken from her home in the middle of the night by Police, 12 hours after she participated in a lawful assembly;
- Long term forest defender Susie Russell was singled out, charged and placed on restrictive bail conditions simply for being in a public forest area;
- Police stalked and arrested members of the community who were camped on a private property in Collo, accusing them of planning disruptive protests. The police minister labelled them “economic vandals”.
- Members of the community intimidated by late night police visits at their homes for questioning, when they have had no previous police contact whatsoever.
- People subjected to harsh and restrictive bail conditions, including cruel non-association conditions unfairly punishing people’s relationships.
The NSW Government's intolerance and hostility to protest and non-violent civil disobedience is creating a dangerous environment where police target and violently arrest anyone who takes to the streets and the forests to fight for the environment and their basic human rights. Magistrates are handing down harsh, unreasonable and excessive sentences, including imprisonment to non-violent conscientious objectors. This political climate is directly influenced by the profit driven agendas of corporations, the fossil fuel industry and the wealthy elite and is intent on silencing dissent and stealing the powers of people to fight back.
The Greens will enshrine the right to protest and ensure non-violent protesters are not imprisoned for exercising a fundamental democratic right.
The Greens will:
- Repeal all anti-protest laws introduced since 2014
- Enshrine the right to protest in law
- Ensure no engaged in non-violent protest or civil disobedience can go to prison
Repeal all anti-protest laws and enshrine the right to protest in law
In 2022 the NSW Coalition Government and Labor rammed legislation through the NSW Parliament targeting climate protesters, making blocking major roads and tunnels offences that can see non-violent protesters thrown in jail for up to two years and fines of up to $22,000.
In 2018 the same government restricted access to public lands and places and created offences of non compliance. In 2016 they introduced laws targeting anti-mining protesters, which attracted up to a 12 month prison sentence for merely standing with a banner at the entrance to a mine site.
This Government has made a new offence of aggravated trespass, making trespass an offence punishable by imprisonment for the first time in NSW. The aggregating factor is that it is a business that is trespassed upon including on public lands.
This Government gave police new powers to search protestors without a warrant and seize any equipment that may be used in non-violent direct action. Then they extended police powers to move on people engaged in a genuine protest on public lands.
In no uncertain terms we are on a significant descent into civil oppression that we urgently need to reverse.
The Greens will repeal these laws and introduce laws that enshrine and protect the right to engage in genuine peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience.
Protest movements are being unfairly targeted and split apart by the NSW Government and police, yet still people show up and risk their freedom to fight for social and environmental justice.
The Greens stand with and defend brave protesters and movements. The Greens are the party of protest and part of the movement powered by people, born of protests across the state, in the forests and on the streets.
Ensure no protestor can go to prison
The Greens will ensure that people who engage in nonviolent genuine protest and or acts of nonviolent civil-disobedience cannot receive a custodial sentence.
The Greens will amend the sentencing laws so that if someone is convicted of an offence while engaging in genuine protest, they cannot be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
Empowering the Right to Protest
Right now, the government and the police are trying to shift protest to a regime where the only protests that may take place are “lawful” protests that have been granted police permission.
Protest is a fundamental right. It is lawful to protest on public land and we do not need police permission to do so.
The Greens are committed to making genuine non-violent protest a defence for all protests, including those that have not been sanctioned by the NSW Police.
No genuine non-violent protest should be considered unlawful. Our right to protest should be protected, ensuring those on the frontlines of environment, climate and social justice are kept safe.