Peter Garrett slams NSW Premier’s “fascistic” comments on climate protester being jailed

Dominic Perrottet said the non-violent protester’s sentence was “pleasing to see”

Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett has hit out at Dominic Perrottet for his tone-deaf comments on the jailing of Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco, after the NSW Premier said the non-violent protester’s sentence was “pleasing to see”.

Last Friday (December 2), Violet was sentenced to 15 months in prison – with a non-parole period of eight months – for participating in a protest against the Australian government’s refusal to act on climate change. On April 13 of this year, she parked a truck horizontally on the Sydney Harbour Bridge – blocking one of its five lanes of traffic – and stood with a lit flare in her clutch.

Police shut the demonstration down after roughly 25 minutes, moving Violet and three other protesters (all of whom appearing on behalf of Fireproof Australia) from the scene.


Violet pleaded guilty to seven charges – which included resisting a police offer during arrest, and using or modifying an authorised explosive not as prescribed – and was fined $2,500. She was refused bail in a hearing on Friday, and will remain in police custody until she sits at an appeal hearing, which is currently scheduled for March.

The sentencing has been widely lambasted, with several high-profile human rights advocates – such as Clément Voule, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly – saying he was “alarmed” by the outcome. Meanwhile, Sophie McNeill – a researcher for the Human Rights Watch organisation – said it was “clear climate protesters are being targeted for disproportionate punishment”.

Responding to the news (via The Guardian), Perrottet said yesterday (December 5) that he considered Violet’s sentence “not excessive”, and that he finds it “pleasing to see” when protesters “have the book thrown at them”. By stopping one lane of traffic for 25 minutes, Perrottet insinuated, Violet “put our way of life at risk”.

“We want people to be able to protest but do it in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people right across NSW,” he continued. “My view is that those protests literally started to grind our city to a halt. The clear message here, and it is a clear lesson – everyone has the right to protest, but do so in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people.”

Garrett – himself an outspoken environmentalist and progressive activist – has now scolded Perrottet for his comments, saying in a tweet that they are “disgraceful, fascistic [and] ignorant beyond belief”.


Garrett’s activism has been just as integral to his career as Midnight Oil, and by extension, the band themselves have long championed progressive causes. In 2020, the band were awarded the prestigious Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal for their human rights activism. The following year, they released the single ‘Rising Seas’, a protest song that takes aim at the government’s inaction on climate change.

Meanwhile, Violet has set up a fundraiser to help cover the costs of her appeal. So far, it has raised just over $44,000. In a statement shared alongside it, she wrote: “I respect the law and do not want to break the law, however, community leaders have pointed out that it is time to protest, as all other channels have failed to have this situation taken seriously.”

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