Port Botany protest: Emma Dorge sentenced after hanging from pole

A magistrate has slammed a climate protester – who stopped freight trains by suspending themselves over the track – as a “public nuisance”.

Emma Dorge, who told media they prefer they/them pronouns, was arrested in March after taking part in an unauthorised protest by environmental group Blockade Australia to disrupt a freight line to Port Botany in Sydney’s southeast.

On March 25, the 26-year-old suspended themselves from a pole above the freight line to draw attention to climate change, posting images of herself to social media.

It was part of a series of protests by the activist group which sparked traffic chaos at the industrial hub.

Emergency services rushed to a section of the freight line which runs over a canal at Qantas Drive in Tempe after Dorge suspended themselves from a pole over the rail line.

According to court documents Dorge and other protesters “erected two poles on the railway” before they livestreamed themselves hanging from the poles from a climbing harness.

Railway authorities were forced to stop all trains travelling on the train line as Dorge was suspended three metres high.

Police told them to get down but Dorge didn’t comply, prompting officers to use an excavator to lower the offender to the ground.

Last week, Dorge pleaded guilty to obstructing a railway locomotive or rolling stock, remaining in inclosed land without lawful excuse and refusing to comply with police directions.

The 26-year-old faced Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday where Magistrate Miranda Moody slammed the climate activist for their behaviour.

“Here we go again, Mr Davis; another one of these people with their heart in the right place making an absolute nuisance,” Ms Moody said.

“Using up resources and police rescue that could be used for other people.”

Ms Moody said while “everyone with a brain” understands the science behind climate change, they don’t support “people like your client”.

Dorge’s lawyer, Mark Davis, told the court there is a “sense of anger and outrage” in Sydney this year as a result of protest activities.

But he argued the offender’s matter had been prior to bigger events such as Deanna “Violet” Coco blocking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, of which she was sentenced to prison.

Ms Moody said she had seen “a lot” of matters like this which led to protests outside court.

“We’re not suppressing protests … go to Hyde Park and do it peacefully,” the magistrate said as Dorge shook their head.

“She’s just a nuisance … a public nuisance.”

Mr Davis said his client accepted the facts but asked the court not to “overdramatise” the event.

The court heard Dorge had no criminal record in NSW but had been convicted for two similar offences in Queensland.

Ms Moody said she intended to convict the offender.

“You can’t come to court and say ‘I’m a good person I can’t be convicted’ … when all these good people have to take her down and be in danger,” she said.

Mr Davis argued Dorge’s actions were all actions of “good intent” and were not violent or caused public damage.

He tendered a letter of apology from Dorge, which said they were looking to re-engage in nursing and relocate to Lismore.

Ms Moody told the court she understood Dorge’s stresses about climate change and said she was not “mocking her”.

“She said it is scary and intimidating to face police … I have no sympathy; she is the one who put herself in the position where police had to find her and rescue her,” Ms Moody said.

“Many of these people have their hearts in the right places … they think inconveniencing the general public by climbing up on poles is the only sort of activity that will bring the community attention.”

Mr Davis asked the magistrate to take into consideration the 36 hours they spent in custody at Surry Hills Police Station.

“Let that be a taste for her for what is to come,” Ms Moody said, prompting Dorge to roll their eyes and scoff.

“Do not roll your eyes at me and smirk, do not be smart.”

Ms Moody said she has no doubt Dorge will protest again as they have the “passion in her veins” for the cause.

Dorge was convicted, fined a total of $330 and was put on a conditional release order for 12 months.

Outside court, Mr Davis said the penalty was “reasonable” despite the harsh words from the magistrate and despite entering court with “great trepidation” given the recent sentence of Coco.

Speaking to media, Dorge said courts and magistrates are “politicising” the issue and “punishing people” trying to make serious change.

“I was given a CRO and a small fine, so it’s not too bad,” they said.

When asked if Dorge thought they were a public nuisance, they said it was “ridiculous” as no one from the general public was affected by her actions.

“She was mentioning the Sydney Harbour Bridge; she was obviously bringing her own political opinion to the case,” they said.

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