Two climate activists have won their appeal in court over a protest that blocked a lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April of last year.

Deanna “Violet” Coco, 32, and Alan Glover, 51, had their sentences overturned, and Coco plans to seek compensation for her 13-day imprisonment.

Supporters marched outside the NSW District Court on Wednesday.

Coco became the first person to be imprisoned under controversial NSW laws that permit protesters to be jailed for up to two years or fined $22,000 if they block major roads, bridges or ports.

Judge Mark Williams SC withdrew all but two of Coco’s convictions and sentenced her to a 12-month conditional release order.

He acknowledged that the police had withdrawn their claim that the protesters had blocked an ambulance with a siren, which was later determined to be false.

Coco said outside court that she wants the police to be held accountable for their lies.


Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco says she is planning to get compensation over her time spent in jail.

During the hearing, Judge Williams acknowledged that Coco posed no threat to the community.

The other protester, Glover, also had his sentence overturned, and Judge Williams substituted his 18-month community corrections order and $3,000 fine with a 12-month conditional release order.

Coco was relieved when her sentence was lifted, saying that the past 11 months have been very challenging. She said that justice had been served and that we must protect our right to protest.

Glover, who had been unable to work as a firefighter while awaiting the appeal, described the experience as emotionally challenging.

When asked whether he regretted blocking the bridge, he responded that he had been protesting democratically and legally for 35 years, writing letters, marching, and signing petitions.

The climate emergency is real, and more needs to be done, he said. The activists have urged voters to weigh their options carefully ahead of next week’s state election.

Protests for Ms Coco in December. Picture: NCA NewsWire /Simon Bullard

Earlier, Coco had pleaded guilty to seven charges, including using or modifying an authorized explosive and resisting arrest, while Glover had pleaded guilty to disrupting traffic.

In December, Coco was sentenced to 15 months in jail with a non-parole period of eight months and fined $2,500. She spent 13 days in jail before being released on bail to appeal her sentence.

During the April protest, the pair stood on a parked truck on the bridge while holding a lit flare and significantly disrupted traffic before being arrested.

Crown prosecutor Ms Maxwell argued that although the protest did not involve violence, it was not peaceful and caused overt and deliberate disruption.

She contrasted it with peaceful, organized rallies where organizers confer with police and the public to avoid disrupting the normal flow of traffic.

Ms Maxwell said that while Coco’s and Glover’s conduct was the same, Coco faced more severe consequences due to her significant criminal history and previous convictions.

When Judge Williams asked why Coco received a full-time sentence while Glover was sentenced to a less serious community correction order, Ms Maxwell pointed out that Coco had demonstrated an ongoing pattern of similar offending behavior, showing complete disregard for public safety and the rule of law.

She cited an incident in October 2020 when Coco went into a private office in central Sydney and spray-painted the Extinction Rebellion sign on the street and glued her hands in the lobby, requiring police to use solvent to remove her hands.

Violet Coco won during her appeal of the controversial case. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

Protesters outside Downing Centre on March 15, 2023, in support of Coco and Glover. Picture: Alex Turner-Cohen/

The prosecution argued that Coco’s behavior had escalated and that she had shown complete disregard for public safety and the rule of law.

The prosecutor stated that during the protest, Coco was motivated by anger after her partner was arrested for a similar protest the day before.

Coco’s defense lawyer argued that her criminal record was limited in terms of activism, and that she had mental health issues which reduced her moral culpability, but that she was improving with psychological help.

He also stated that Coco was doing constructive volunteer work with flood-affected people in Lismore and had excellent prospects of rehabilitation.

Regarding Glover, his lawyer argued that he was peaceful and committed no damage to property or injury to any person, and that the explosive used was authorized.

She also claimed that the false assertion that the protesters had blocked an ambulance contributed to their sentences, including Coco’s imprisonment.

Alan Glover holding up a flare during the protest.

During the court hearing, Glover’s lawyer argued that he was a long-time volunteer firefighter who was motivated to protest following the devastation of the black summer bushfires and the climate.

The lawyer also submitted that Glover was peaceful during the protest, causing no damage to property, injury to any person, or resistance of arrest.

Glover’s participation in the protest only blocked one lane, which was less disruptive than other events.

The lawyer also clarified that the explosive used by Glover was authorized, contrary to the Crown’s assertion that it was unauthorized.

The lawyer argued that the false assertion that the protesters blocked an ambulance contributed to their sentences, including the decision to jail Coco.

Alan Glover became more involved in protests after the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/2020. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

During Ms Coco’s initial sentencing, the magistrate criticized her for being “selfish” and “emotional”.

She spent 10 days in Silverwater prison before being granted bail in December, with conditions including staying at least 1km away from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

After her release, Ms Coco attended a small protest at Sydney’s Town Hall, where she spoke out against the protest laws that were introduced in response to high-profile protests in NSW.

She thanked the crowd for their support and said that the strength of the community was fueling the challenge against the laws which she believed were an attack on democracy.