LETTER: Activists not criminals

IN May 2007, I was arrested for the first time with 15 other people for peacefully holding a banner on the construction site of the third coal terminal in the world’s largest coal export port, Newcastle. 

Due to my low income, I received legal aid and was well represented. 

Today, farmers, horse breeders and doctors young and old are peacefully resisting coal and gas expansion. 

Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King before them, they are castigated now but will be heroes in the future, because they are upholding our right to survival, to clean water, air and food and to avoiding a global climate catastrophe.

In response, the NSW government has introduced a new rule that says that ‘‘activists and lobby groups’’ are not entitled to legal aid.

 This means that somebody  who holds up a petrol station or a bank has the right to legal representation, but if I am charged with trespass for protesting I don’t have that right because I am an ‘‘activist’’. 

Given recent government crackdowns on coal activists, including heavier charges that have never been used and lengthy bonds, I am concerned this whole situation will end up with somebody in jail. 

We may praise that person as a hero, but is it really what a liberal democracy looks like?

Jonathan Moylan,  

Hamilton 

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