Australian climate activist handed 12-month jail sentence for non-violent protest

Eric Serge Herbert standing on a coal train in Newcastle.
Eric Serge Herbert standing on a coal train in Newcastle. Photo credit: Image - Twitter/Blockade Australia

A 22-year-old climate activist in Australia has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after he attempted to block coal trains at the Port of Newcastle.

Eric Serge Herbert will serve at least six months in jail after being sentenced at Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday.

This isn't the first time Herbert has been arrested for protesting. He was first apprehended more than a week ago for obstructing a railway locomotive and sentenced to a community corrections order.

He was then arrested again while walking in a nearby national park on Kooragang Island for allegedly breaking that order.

He was charged with attempting to hinder working mining equipment and attempting to assist in obstruction of railway locomotives.

Herbert is one of 29 Blockade Australia activists who have been arrested at the coal port - the largest in the world - over the past two weeks for stopping trains, shutting down machinery and bringing operations to a standstill.

The length of the sentence has the climate activist group "deeply concerned" calling the punishment "extreme."

"Obviously it's an extreme sentence for a 22-year-old person that's only taken part in non-violent direct action," Blockade Australia spokesperson Zianna Fuad told Pedestrian. "We're deeply concerned about the increased state of oppression. 

"It's become more obvious to us that Australia wants to preserve itself. It really fits our view that our democracy is rigged."

Herbert is a triplet brother of social media influencers Renee and Elisha Herbert who have launched a scathing attack over the sentence.

"Being silenced is nothing new to activists," Elisha Herbert wrote on her Instagram story. "If the government didn't literally fund and make billions from industries that cause climate change, we wouldn't have to scream and shout. 

"We know what you're doing, we know the truth and will ever stop us fighting you. 

"The fact that people are getting no time in jail for raping and killing people yet a climate change activist get a year is f***ing beyond me."