A protester has been fined $ 40 after telling police he was mine magnate Clive Palmer when he was arrested for violating ACT’s lockdown restrictions.
Andrew George, 32, branded the billionaire businessman as “a climate criminal” when he appeared in ACT Magistrates Court on Saturday morning after a night in police custody.
Legal documents show that the Ainslie man went to the Symonston premises of a company called XTEK on Friday afternoon.
When police were called, members of the group he was with officers told that they were “here for a peaceful protest to raise awareness of the political situation in West Papua”.
Police told those present that they were in violation of the lockdown restrictions and would be issued with violation notices at a later date.
But the officers ended up arresting George because they were initially unable to establish his identity.
He told them he was Clive Palmer and that he lived in Toowoomba.
George later repeated this to a sergeant in the town guard house, adding that he did not know his date of birth.
Police found out who he was through an analysis of his fingerprints, and offered him the opportunity to sign a bail bond to appear in court on October 15.
“He refused on tape to sign the pledge, stating that he would see the judge in the morning,” court documents say.
George did exactly that on Saturday when he appeared in court before Judge James Stewart.
He pleaded guilty to failing to comply with public health guidelines and giving a false name to police.
George represented himself, telling Stewart that the court was sitting on stolen land and that “sovereignty was not relinquished.”
“It’s similar to what’s happening in West Papua at the moment,” he said.
George said people were displaced so companies could extract minerals.
“Innocent farmers and villagers are being murdered,” the 32-year-old told the court.
“I’ve seen the pictures. It’s awful.”
George said he had protested on Friday “to sound the alarm” and “shout complicity” from the Australians in this situation.
He told Stewart he had given police the name Clive Palmer, “who you may know is a fossil fuel magnate”.
“He’s currently what I would call a climate criminal,” George said.
“I think climate criminals should be treated the same way as war criminals.”
Stewart thanked George for the explanation and asked him about his financial situation to judge the man reasonably.
George, an Extinction Rebellion member, responded that he was unemployed and “just trying to do my best to protect the climate and vulnerable communities”.
“I’m benefiting from the public allowance at the moment,” he said.
Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna told the court he did not want to comment on the truth or otherwise in George’s positions.
But he said the actions of people gathered for protests in Sydney and Melbourne showed what could happen in terms of COVID-19 transmission when people violated restrictions.
Stewart said he would have considered a non-conviction order if George’s criminal record did not already include convictions for “largely similar activities,”
The magistrate imposed 20 fines on each charge.
“I waive the costs of the case because you have spent the night in custody and you are not a financial man,” he told George.
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