A serial protester has lashed out at a magistrate after she sentenced him for his involvement in a pro-Palestinian blockade that caused operations at a busy port to coming to a grinding halt.

Eric Herbert appeared in Sydney Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to seriously disrupting a major facility, obstructing a driver’s path and refusing to comply with police.

He was one of 23 people arrested by police after a protest that shuttered Sydney’s busy Port Botany for two hours on Tuesday night.

Specialist police units and mounted officers on horseback were called to respond to the disruption after more than 400 protesters refused an order to leave the cargo hub.

On Thursday, Herbert represented himself in court and explained he’d had a “failure in judgement” on that night.

“The space changed rapidly around me at the protest in a way that I didn’t respond to quickly enough,” he said.

“I made an incorrect judgement at this point in time which happened in seconds.”

The 24-year-old argued the protest had been granted permission and remained peaceful at the port, but police had arbitrarily “decided the gathering was no longer lawful”.

He has previously made headlines for his participation in several high-profile protests as a member of climate activist group Blockade Australia.

Two years ago to the day, Herbert was sentenced to 12 months behind bars for obstructing blockading a coal train near Newcastle, which the court heard was later overturned.

Magistrate Megan Greenwood stressed Herbert had been convicted of “quite a few” offences related to protest activity.

“You tell the court you’re trying to obey the law … (yet) here you are again,” she said.

“I am troubled about whether or not you will stay out of trouble.”

Police prosecutor Alex Borg said there was “no evidence of remorse” from the young activist about protests which he said impacted the city’s vital services.

He said the entire port was shut down during the blockade and 100 trucks were parked up because they were unable to access the entry road.

“These protests have been going on for many weeks and it’s anticipated that will continue going on,” he said.

“The court needs to send a message to the community that if these offences are committed, the punishment will be severe.”

Magistrate Greenwood agreed “a great deal of police resources were diverted to the protest’ that would have otherwise assisted victims of crimes.

However, she recognised Herbert felt “aggrieved because of what’s happening in Palestine”.

The serial protester told the court he intended to continue protesting but he had no intention of committing any further offences.

The magistrate convicted him of all charges and sentenced him to a two year community corrections order. He was also fined $330 and ordered not to go near Port Botany.

Outside court, Herbert called the magistrate’s decision “a disgrace” and said she had ignored his right to protest.

“The police do not intend on upholding our right to protest in this state and this court has upheld that decision to crack down on people standing up against genocide peacefully,” he said.

The activist told NewsWire he would appeal the magistrate’s decision in the District Court.

The protest on November 21 was held to demonstrate against a container ship owned by Israeli company ZIM, which indicated it would provide assistance to Israel’s defence ministry.

Hundreds of demonstrators chanted and waved Palestinian flags as they called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.



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By Rahul

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