Climate activist sentenced to 12 months in prison for blocking coal trains in NSW | Energy

A Blockade Australia activist has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for blocking coal trains in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

Eric Serge Herbert will face a minimum of six months behind bars for his protests after being convicted by the Newcastle local court on Monday.

Blockade Australia said in a statement that it stopped a coal train for five hours by “climbing on it”.

“Sergeio’s action has been taken to oppose Australia’s role in the climate and environmental crisis,” the statement said.

Herbert was arrested the following week while hiking in a national park on Kooragang Island.

He was charged with obstructing a railway locomotive or rolling stock, attempting to impede the operation of mining equipment, and attempting to assist in obstructing a railway locomotive or rolling stock.

Blockade Australia said in the statement it was facing “extreme measures” from authorities to halt its protest efforts, with at least 28 people arrested in November in connection with the group’s direct action.

The NSW Police Force established Strike Force Tuohy to actively work to prevent and disrupt illegal climate protests in Newcastle and the Hunter.

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Announcing the new strike force, Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna said environmental activists could face up to 25 years in prison for their actions.

The group recently completed two weeks of “non-violent direct action” in Newcastle’s coal port targeting the freight networks and exports around Newcastle port, with 20 protests over 11 consecutive days.

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Herbert had previously received minor fines and charges. Earlier this year, Herbert chained himself to a car used to drive politicians to parliament for federal budget meetings, and was fined $100 by an ACT magistrate.

He was sentenced to six months’ probation in 2019 after locking himself in a car outside a Queensland government building for several hours.

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