Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in central Sydney calling for the repeal of anti-protest laws following the sentencing of a climate change activist earlier this month. 

Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco was handed a 15-month jail sentence two weeks ago, with a non-parole period of eight months, after protesting for climate action by blocking a single lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 25 minutes in April.

From atop a hired truck she live streamed the peaceful protest online, and lit an emergency flare before being arrested by police.

The 31-year-old, who was granted bail on Tuesday, was the main speaker at today’s protest, telling crowds Australians needed to protect protest rights. 

“Throughout history, whenever injustice has occurred… disruptive protests have been at the frontline of that change from the civil rights movement, the suffragettes movement, to getting the eight-hour working day,” she said. 

“We have stood at the front line to make these changes through protest, and so we must be protecting that.”

Coco pleaded guilty to several offences, including blocking traffic and failure to comply with police.

She is the first person to be prosecuted under an anti-protest bill that passed in April, which makes disruptive protests punishable by the State, and carries far greater penalties than could previously be applied. 

At least a dozen other protesters, many from climate activism group Blockade Australia, are currently awaiting prosecution under the same law.

At today’s protest, climate activists, university students, non-for profit groups and Greens NSW members stood in solidarity with Coco, calling for protected protest laws.

“When our planet is under attack, what do we do [send our fight back], when our democracy is under attack, what do we do [send our fight back],” was chanted by the crowd as they marched from Town Hall to NSW Parliament in Macquarie Street.

A protester marching through Sydney’s streets with his dog. Photo by Aston Brown.


“I’m here because the right to peaceful protest is something that we have to protect, and sadly what we are seeing is an attack on our democracy through the attack on our rights to protest,” Greens Senator Jenny Leong told Central News.

“We need to be able to stand up for climate action and stand up against unjust laws, and we can only do that if we are in a situation where we have the right to be able to engage in non-violent direct action.”

Active sitting member of the Greens and previous principal solicitor of the Environmental Defenders Office, Sue Higginson, addressed the dire need for climate protesting amidst these anti-protest laws. 

Greens member Sue Higginson. Photo by Aston Brown.


“This is more than activism and politics and law for me, this is deeply personal,” she said.

“I’m from Lismore, my home is Lismore, it’s where my children were born, it’s where my grandchildren are being born now.

“In 2019 we saw our rainforests catch fire, we were on the frontline putting out those fires… then in February this year, members of my family were in tinnies rescuing our friends off their roofs while they were holding on for their dear lives.”

Protesters marching to NSW Parliament. Photo by Aston Brown.


“We need the right to stand up wherever we need to, to call out the lack of action on climate change.”

In November, Australia’s Federal Government legislated a new emissions reduction target to cut emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, bringing Australia closer to the rest of the developing world, according to a 2022 Climate Council report

While this displays commitments to aid climate change by the government, environment officer for Sydney University SRC, Simon Upitis, claimed these actions were “basically greenwashing”.


Violet Coco addresses protesters at Town Hall. Photo by Aston Brown.


“While Violet was blocking traffic, the fossil fuel companies received $500,000 worth of subsidies from the government, it shows you whose interest our society is being run by, and that’s why we need to oppose the anti-protest laws,” Upitis told Central News.

“It shows just how undemocratic our society really is.”

“We think that it is absolutely unjust that the people who are standing up for ordinary people and standing up for the planet are going to jail, while the real climate criminals, the fossil fuel companies, are being protected by the government.”

“I’m just so grateful that people are standing up against the attack on our democracy and protecting our right to protest, especially in such an important issue in protecting our planet and the environment from the collapse,” Coco told Central News.

“Our planet is under attack, democracies are under attack, and we really need to be fighting for all protesters and all of the people who have been mistreated through our system.”

Main image of climate activist Violet Coco by Aston Brown.