NSW Premier describes jail of climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco as ‘nice to see’

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet described the sentencing of environmental protester Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco to a minimum of eight months in jail as ‘delightful to watch’ despite strong criticism from human rights defenders and an official of the United Nations.

Coco was sentenced on Friday to 15 months in prison, with an eight-month non-parole period, after blocking a lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbor Bridge in April.

Human rights defenders labeled the ruling ‘disproportionate’, with Clément Voule, UN special rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, saying over the weekend he was “alarmed” by the ruling and the court’s refusal to take bail is being considered on his appeal until March .

“Peaceful protesters should never be criminalized or imprisoned,” Voule said.

Related: ‘Integral part of democracy’: Climate campaigners launch court appeal against NSW anti-protest laws

When asked about the prison sentence on Monday morning, Perrottet said the sentence “is not excessive” and warned others against taking part in protests that “disturb people”.

“If the protesters want to put our way of life at risk, then they should have the book thrown at them and that’s nice to see,” Perrottet said.

“We want people to be able to protest but do it in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people across NSW.”

He said the ruling should serve as a “clear lesson” for people who want to protest.

“My view is that those protests have literally started to bring our city to a halt,” he said.

“The message is clear here, and it’s a clear lesson: everyone has the right to protest, but do it in a way that doesn’t inconvenience people.”

Coco was one of four protesters from activist group Fireproof Australia who blocked a southbound lane on the bridge just before 8.30am on 13 April. While others held up a banner and stuck to the road, Coco climbed onto the roof of a rented van and set off a rocket.

Coco pleaded guilty to seven charges, including using or modifying an authorized explosive not as prescribed and resisting a police offer during the arrest. She was fined $2,500.

The activist will appeal against the sentence. She was refused bail on Friday and she will remain in custody until an appeals hearing in March.

Earlier this year, the NSW Government introduced tough new laws increasing penalties for non-violent protesters with higher fines and up to two years in prison. The move, which was challenged by the supreme court, followed a series of weather protests that disrupted activity at key ports.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns said on Monday he had no regrets supporting the laws, which angered some in his bench earlier this year.

“At the end of the day, you’re talking about a situation where mass protests were shutting down half the city and on repeat,” Minns said.

“I think most people would appreciate that even in free societies there is a context and a set of circumstances [and] when you inconvenience literally hundreds of thousands of people as often as possible on consecutive days, there will be legislative action about that because it’s not just inconvenience, it could be a situation where people find themselves in life-threatening circumstances life, not being able to access emergency services when they need them.”

Related: Wherever you are on Violet Coco, her incarceration ups the ante for climate protest | Adam Morton

Protesters are expected to take to the streets in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart on Monday to express concern about the ruling.

Canberra rally speaker and Green Institute executive director Tim Hollo said the ruling was a “window into how our system is racing full speed ahead to defend the right to drain the planet for profit.”

“We must all use our democratic rights to demand Violet’s release and start building a real democracy that works for people and the planet,” she said.

Miriam Robinson, a spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, said governments across Australia were trying to crack down on dissent by setting an example for protesters rather than addressing citizens’ concerns.

“It will be baffling to future historians that governments have chosen to protect polluters from the health and well-being of an entire planet and the potential end of civilization as we know it,” he said.

“Blocking a road for half an hour will seem like the least people can do. History will be the judge and it will not be kind to the NSW Government.”

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