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Experiences from the Glenugie Blockade 7th Jan2013

Experiences from the Glenugie Blockade 7th Jan2013

Sue's one-woman ephemeral message in the sand at Yuraygir national park

Report by Sue Vader

Metgasco may have succeeded in getting their drill onto the Genugie site – but not the war!  One very cheering sign is that the local media seems to be getting onside with the protest movement. Both the Northern Star and the Grafton newspaper, The Daily Examiner, had huge front page photos and 2 – 3 page spreads, including stories which showed the widespread support for the protest from all walks of life.

Access Blocked by police

After the 2 ½ hour drive down to Glenugie to lend my support to the protesters last Monday, I was prevented from accessing The Avenue (where the drill rig was forcing its way in), by car or on foot, by one of the 60 riot police sent to facilitate Metgasco’s invasion. ( There are reports that the cost to the taxpyer for this heavy handed action exceeds $120,000 Ed)

This particular policeman had been assigned the job of turning away any more supporters from joining the ranks massed at the site (I believe there were over 200 people there). In fairness, I have to say he seemed quite sympathetic to the protest(as were others of the police presence, apparently)but he had his orders and when questioned as to why I was forbidden entry to a public road (even on foot) he said it was a “public safety” issue.

Public Safety?

Bitterly disappointed, I drove to the nearby Yuraygir national park and set up camp. Later that evening I drove back to the mine site, arriving around 6pm when the police were finally letting people in (amazing irony of the police forcefully facilitating the entry of CSG mining, which is such a ‘public safety’ issue). At a nearby beautiful lagoon a huge number of protesters were holding a meeting as they all needed to tell their experiences and help each other come to terms with the traumatic events of the day. It was incredibly moving and inspiring to witness the strength and support they gave each other.
 

 

Unnecessary force used by Police

Despite the protesters being strong in their determination to be non-violent, the riot police did, in some instances, use unnecessary force. One guy who had locked himself into the ground with concrete was quite badly hurt when the “rescuing” officer rammed a crowbar into his arm. I took a photo of the protesternext day in front of the Grafton courthouse(see below, with politically-aware dog in yellow T shirt) where he told me he had to go to the hospital to see his X-ray. He thought he probably had a fractured bone and his hand and forearm were very swollen.I believe incidents of police violence are being documented for use in legal action.

 
On Tuesday morning, after camping in the Yuraygir National Park, I drove back yet again to the mine site where there was still a disproportionate police presence and a handful of protesters doggedly sitting and standing in front of the site - they were duly moved on by the police to allow the trucks to leave.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The morning after blues
 

Grafton Court appearances

Most of the protesters then decamped to Grafton to attend the court hearings of those who had been arrested – some of whom had been jailed overnight. Ian Gaillard, who had been arrested for taking water to a locked-on protester, was arrested and jailed for refusing his bail conditions (which included not revisiting the mine site). He spent the night sleeping (?) on the concrete floor of the Grafton police cell as the police could only find 2 mattresses to accommodate the 3 people in his cell.
 
Alan Clements (who shared a cell with Ian Gaillard)after being released on bail
           
Despite the distressing outcome of the previous day with Metgasco getting their drill rig in, there was an almost palpable sense of esprit de corpsin front of the Grafton courthouse amongst the gathering protesters. Before the court hearings, Adam Guise of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) gave everyone a quick rundown on effective and appropriate behaviour in court. This information was very much taken on board as the packed (standing room only) public gallery silently punched the air in victory as each protester was granted bail, despite not complying with the police condition of not returning to the Glenugie site. We were very lucky to have a civilized and benign judge, in the person of David Heilpern.
 
Adam Guise of the EDO gives some tips on courtroom etiquette
Local farmer & strange lady in white make a black & white statement
 
Local farmers Donna Franklin and her neighbour Craig Ison
.
 
 
Reading the good news coverage in front of Grafton courthouse
 
            To sum up: Metgasco may have won this skirmish – but not the war!  One very cheering sign is that the local media seems to be getting onside with the protest movement. Both the Northern Star and the Grafton newspaper, The Daily Examiner, had huge front page photos and 2 – 3 page spreads, including stories which showed the widespread support for the protest from all walks of life.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


 

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