The climate activist who paralysed Sydney when she chained herself to her steering wheel on one of the city’s busiest roads during peak hour traffic will not be fined or jailed after a magistrate dismissed all her charges on mental health grounds.
Mali Cooper, 22, was one of the Blockade Australia protesters who were slapped with multiple obstruction and disruption offences after they sensationally blocked the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in June.
They had faced charges of disrupting traffic and obstructing drivers or pedestrians following a Blockade Australia protest in Sydney’s CBD and near the bridge in June.
On Tuesday morning, the 22-year-old appeared in Lismore Local Court, where she risked being slapped with a two-year sentence and a $22,000 fine.
In dismissing the charges without conviction under the Mental Health Act, magistrate Jeff Linden discharged Mali Cooper into the care of a psychologist for six months.
Mali Cooper, 22, was one of the Blockade Australia protesters who were slapped with multiple obstruction and disruption offences after blocking the entrance to the Harbour Bridge in June
‘We are very relieved that the court calmly considered all of the facts in this case, including the psychological impact of climate change upon young people like Mali,’ their lawyer Mark Davis said in a statement.
He said the court ‘gave full consideration’ to his client’s pre-existing anxiety disorder which ‘was profoundly impacted, exacerbated by the Lismore floods and her concerns about climate change to such a degree that it was clinically diagnosed after the Lismore floods as PTSD’.
‘Seeing (their) hometown of Lismore destroyed twice in the months preceding (their) action induced a trauma in (them) that was a decisive factor in today’s decision.’
He said Cooper ‘probably went a step further than she intended’ when it came to the protest and that she regretted the distress it created for those in the traffic jam.
He said she ‘decided to do something that in a more rational state she might not have done’ after seeing Lismore ‘obliterated twice in just a couple of months’.
Cooper had said they had watched the town they loved being decimated by a climate disaster.
‘The terrifying reality of climate breakdown is here, this town is still living it,’ they said.
Ms Cooper was accused of parking a white rental hatchback (pictured) diagonally across the entrance to the busy tunnel, causing a queue of traffic that stretched for 20 kilometres
Ms Cooper has been ordered to attend fortnightly counselling sessions over the next six months, with treatment to be extended if needed.
The activist livestreamed the protest on her phone and was even approached by a furious motorist who told Ms Cooper she was ‘f***ing up everyone’s day’.
The police are here,’ she told the camera. ‘Not sure if you can see. Thank you everyone who has listened.
‘I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to hold this phone and hold this space. It’s a big day ahead.’
She was eventually dragged out of the rental and arrested and appeared in Central Local Court where she was given liberty under strict conditions that she return to her home near Lismore, northern NSW, and abide by a curfew between 10pm and 6am.
Blockade Australia announced the judge had dismissed all of Ms Cooper’s charges in a jubilant Facebook post on Tuesday (pictured, the 22-year-old’s rental at the entrance to the bridge)
Dramatic vision of her arrest in June showed the activist dragged from the car and held face down on the tarmac after specialists from the Police Rescue units were eventually forced to cut her free from the steering wheel.
Critics of the stunt said there could have been emergencies such as ambulances or women in labour that were trapped in the gridlock.
After a night behind bars, Ms Cooper told hosts on The Project she didn’t regret the protest but felt ‘nervous about what the future holds’.
After spending the previous night behind bars, the 22-year-old said she was glad to have the opportunity to speak about climate issues.
Ms Cooper chained herself to the steering wheel with a bike lock (left) causing gridlock for kilometres with one furious commuter hurling disgusting insults at her (right)
Host Waleed Aly then asked if Ms Cooper’s intention was to ’cause chaos, perhaps get arrested and then get on television to be able to talk about these issues’.
She replied that the disruption itself was the goal because that ‘has been proven time and again to have an effect that allows change to happen’.
‘We need radical change to save the planet’.
Blockade Australia announced the magistrate had dismissed all charges in a jubilant Facebook post on Tuesday morning, which was warmly received by their followers.
‘Wonderful – thanks again for your bravery, Mali, in taking action and facing court,’ one woman commented.
‘Climate criminals fossil fuel industry profiteers should go to jail. Not protestors fighting for a livable planet,’ another said.
‘Thank you Mali! I am so sorry you have had to risk your freedom to bring attention to the climate and ecological crisis we face,’ a third wrote.
The group, which describes itself as a network established in response to Australia’s response to the ‘climate crisis’, took the opportunity to lash NSW’s new anti-protest laws as ‘draconian’.
The laws were introduced to crack down on dangerous and disruptive protests.