Blockade Australia Activist Mali Cooper Has Charges Dropped After Sydney Harbour Tunnel Protest

"They're shocked today and obviously relieved."

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A Blockade Australia activist who faced two years in prison and $22,000 in fines after blocking the Sydney Harbour Tunnel as part of a climate protest has been cleared of all charges on Tuesday.

Lismore local Mali Cooper was charged with wilfully preventing free passage of vehicles after locking themselves in a car in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel during peak hour traffic in June.

Livestreaming the ensuing chaos as traffic banked up around them, Cooper stated the rationale behind the disruptive action was to enact systemic change after witnessing the devastation of the Lismore floods.

“It’s for everyone’s people that we love that we take this stand because it is for all of us that we need our life support systems,” said Cooper in the livestream.

Before 2022, Cooper’s offence would normally impose a maximum penalty of $440, but after changes to protest laws in NSW — specifically designed to target climate protesters — these penalties were increased to $22,000, or jail time of up to two years.

Facing these penalties at Lismore local court this morning, Cooper’s charges were squashed by magistrates under a section 14 mental health order.

Cooper’s lawyer Mark Davis said to Junkee that he was “delighted” at the outcome, with the magistrate considering factors like his client’s climate anxiety after their hometown of Lismore was devastated twice by floods in the verdict.

“This is (someone) who has no criminal history whatsoever, doesn’t even have a speeding fine,” Davis told Junkee.

“[Mali] was anticipating going to jail today, [they’re] shocked today and obviously relieved. [Mali’s] just now coming to grips with no longer being a criminal, but being free to go about [their] life in a normal manner.”

With several other Blockade Australia protestors facing sentencing soon, Davis is hopeful that the courts will deliver a similar outcome while blasting the new “absurd” maximum two-year jail penalties.

“They’re all facing two years jail for nothing more than literally stepping on a street in Sydney. It’s insane,” said Davis.

Following the verdict, Cooper spoke optimistically of community action in the face of further climate disasters in a post on Twitter.

“I have watched the town I love be decimated by a climate disaster. I have witnessed community step up & take care of each other in place of our Gov,” said Cooper in a statement.

“If we stand together and resist through direct action, we have the best chance of turning this destruction around.”

Photo Credit: Blockade Australia