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Climate activist sentenced to 12 months in jail over coal train blockade in NSW

Eric Serge Herbert stopped a Newcastle coal train by ‘climbing on top of it’

The coal port on Kooragang Island, Newcastle. Blockade Australia protester Eric Serge Herbert will serve a minimum of six months behind bars for an anti-coal protest. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian

A Blockade Australia activist has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for blockading coal trains in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

Eric Serge Herbert will serve a minimum of six months behind bars for his protests, after he was sentenced at Newcastle local court on Monday.

Blockade Australia said in a statement he had stopped a coal train for five hours by “climbing on top of it”.

“Sergeio’s action was taken to oppose the role Australia plays in the climate and ecological crisis,” the statement said.

Herbert was arrested the following week, as he was walking in a national park on Kooragang Island.

He was charged with causing obstruction of a railway locomotive or rolling stock, attempting to hinder the working of mining equipment, and attempting to assist in the obstruction of a rail locomotive or rolling stock.

Blockade Australia said in the statement it was facing “extreme measures” by authorities to shut down its protest efforts, with at least 28 people arrested in November in relation to direct action taken by the group.

NSW police formed Strike Force Tuohy to actively work towards preventing and disrupting any illegal climate protests in Newcastle and the Hunter.

In announcing the new strike force, the assistant commissioner Peter McKenna said that environmental activists could face up to 25 years in prison for their actions.

The group recently completed two weeks of “nonviolent direct action” at the coal port in Newcastle, targeting the freight networks and exports surrounding the Port of Newcastle, with 20 protests over 11 consecutive days.

Herbert had previously received minor fines and charges. Earlier this year, Herbert chained himself to a car used to chauffeur politicians to parliament for federal budget sittings, and was fined $100 by an ACT magistrate.

He was sentenced to six months probation in 2019 after locking himself to a car outside a Queensland government building for several hours.


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