Two elderly activists hold a sign reading: Protest is vital to democracy!
Protest is vital to democracy

For over a decade, we worked on raising the profile of the increasing attacks on activists. We monitored repressive legislation, policing and other tactics used to silence dissent since our inception. These tactics include surveillance, police violence and harassment, increasing penalties for activists, and anti-protest laws. Ongoing attempts to curtail peaceful protest is a serious attack on democracy. It is vital that we protect the right to protest. #ProtectProtest

We’ve endeavoured to educate larger non-profit organisations about the seriousness of this threat. Now we really need to see the broader sector to step up to fund and provide organisational support for this work. 

Please contact our excellent allies at the Australian Democracy Network to get involved. The Human Rights Law Centre is also playing a vital role. CounterAct is a signatory on their Declaration of Our Right to Protest.

The repression of activists

Overlapping circles with text talking about different aspects of repression

Twenty-five years jail for peaceful protest. That is the potential outcome from the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill (EFI) that was introduced by the Liberals and rubber stamped by Labor in 2018. It was slammed through with such speed that the cross-benches had one hour to examine what was described as the most serious overhaul to national security in 40 years.

Suppression of the right to protest (2019)

Our essay on the Suppression of the right to protest in 2019 explored the topics of:

  • protest as terrorism
  • increasing penalties for civil disobedience
  • violence and intimidation tactics
  • right to protest vs right to profit
  • surveillance and infiltration
  • dissent = democracy
This essay on Stop the attack on peaceful protest (2021) looks in depth at the impact of the legislation change.

An escalating battle

In 2023, police raided and charged activists involved with Extinction Rebellion and Disrupt Burrup Hub with crimes NOT RELATING to their documented involvement in protests. Four Corners aired a segment on the escalating battle between climate activists and police on 9 October 2023. (See also: The day protest got personal)

WA Police have demanded that Four Corners hand over the raw footage of the show. This subpoena is an assault on press freedom and a cornerstone of our democracy. This alarming precedent must be resisted. The intelligence able to be gathered on the climate movement amidst hundreds of hours of footage could put many people at risk. Spurious charges could be laid against peaceful activists. Plus they could potentially drum up vague rationale for surveillance, harassment and more raids. We stood with other signatories in urging the ABC to protect its sources.

Case studies

Personal stories like the ones above on Four Corners are vital. People resonate with the personal. We’ve spoken to activists all over the country to gather case studies about outcomes of court cases, monitored raids and increasing surveillance and are still accepting personal stories of experiences of state violence here.

Deanna Violet” Coco was sentenced to 15 month of jail in December 2022 for a peaceful climate protest. This was the sixth jail sentence handed down in NSW over eighteen months but the first to gain much exposure. We coordinated over 230 organisations united to condemn this action. Her sentence was overturned in a 12-month conditional release order in March 2023.