A protester who blocked the Sydney Harbor Bridge in a climate change protest has been sent to prison after a magistrate berated her for her “childish stunts” and “selfish emotional” actions.
Magistrate Allison Hawkins sent Deanna “Violet” Coco to prison for a minimum of eight months after pleading guilty to seven charges, including using an authorized explosive device that was not prescribed, possession of a bright distress signal in a public place and disrupt the vault. operation of a bridge.
The 31-year-old sat in the front row of the public gallery at Downing Center Local Court in Sydney on Friday, wiping tears from her eyes as she held hands with her mother and another female supporter.
At 8:30 a.m. on April 13, Coco drove a large rental car down the Cahill Expressway on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and purposefully blocked a lane during rush hour traffic, the court was told.
Deanna Coco arrived at Downing Center Local Court with several supporters before being sent to prison. Image: NCA NewsWire/Nikki Short
As the truck was blocking traffic, she stood on it, held a flaming emergency flare and live-streamed the event.
After 25 minutes, police arrived and forcibly removed the protesters from Sydney’s iconic landmark, with Coco resisting arrest.
Defense attorney Mark Davis told the court that a “glaring fact” in Coco’s case was that she blocked only one lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbor Bridge when there were five.
“One lane was blocked…it was a deliberate choice to only block one lane,” Davis said.
“Simply put, the traffic may still be moving, there was no suggestion that the traffic was backed up.”
The court was told that Coco suffered from “serious anxiety around climate change” and her actions were personally motivated, as her boyfriend had been arrested for a similar protest at a football pitch.
The 31-year-old was arrested after blocking a lane on the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Mr Davis said his client was in a ‘high state of emotion’ and would not normally have committed the crime.
Ms. Hawkins questioned Mr. Davis’ defence: “Normal members of the community going to work and going about their ordinary business have no right to be disturbed because she is in a high state of emotion.”
The defense attorney said fear of climate change was the “most common fear” in Coco’s generation.
“There can be an overwhelming threat of doom, they feel they’re not being heard, the government isn’t doing enough, it leads to these kinds of actions,” Davis said.
Ms. Hawkins found there was an “intended element of planning” in Coco’s offense.
“You stopped getting a flare and a truck during rush hour, and the banners and glue, to stop rush hour traffic in the city at that time with the aim of getting maximum visibility,” the magistrate said.
Coco was in a high state of emotion, the court was told. Photo: David Swift
“You knew this was illegal, you knew you’d be arrested, and you knew there would be consequences.”
Ms Hawkins told Coco that she had made an “entire town suffer” because of her “emotional reaction” and had failed to consider the other people she had affected.
She said the actions of the 31-year-old deserved conviction from both the court and the community.
“You damage your business when you pull these childish stunts. Why should they be disturbed by your selfish emotional actions?’ said Mrs. Hawkins.
“You’re not a political prisoner, you’re a criminal.”
Coco was found guilty and sentenced to 15 months in prison with an eight-month non-parole period.
She hugged her mother and friend before being handcuffed and led out of court by two corrective officers.
Her counsel immediately filed a criminal appeal and appeared before the same magistrate for a bail application while the appeal waited to be heard.
The enthusiastic protester sought bail pending an appeal. Image: NCA NewsWire/Nikki Short
Mr. Davis told the court that Coco should be released on bail because she did not risk not appearing in court, while her mother offered $10,000 bail.
“She has complied with all restrictions, she has shown all due respect to the court and she has not offended again … she poses no threat to society,” Mr Davis said.
Ms. Hawkins said the court was not lightly jailing people and that Coco’s offenses were “upmarket.”
“It appears the court was open to the prospect of you being jailed,” she said.
Bail was denied.
Coco is a serial protester and member of climate activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fireproof Australia.
She has previously faced trial for protesting a mining operation while topless and for setting fire to a pram outside Parliament House.