By Tony Hastings
"We were all like brothers and sisters, we're all in it together. We thought we might all get arrested — and we did!", laughs Russel, a Skyrail blockader.
The blockade hopes to stop Skyrail, a privately owned cable-car development, from being constructed in World Heritage listed Barron Gorge National Park.
On Monday, November 21, Russel was one of seven arrested for constructing and occupying a platform 20 metres above a Skyrail tower site. The platform was suspended on a single, frayed hemp rope, "It was really dodgy", said Wynne, one of two who spent the night on the platform.
Police arrived late Sunday afternoon, only an hour and a half after climbers started rigging. They confiscated vital equipment, which left Wynne and BJ stranded on the platform overnight.
Both have filed complaints against the police for the manner in which the were brought down. "One of the officers involved in bringing us down deliberately hit the one and only hemp rope the platform was hanging from. This officer also stood on this rope with spiked boots, thus showing little concern for our safety", claimed Wynne.
On the Friday before, another arrest took place. Surveyors were clearing an overwide track, which follows the length of the 7.5 km Skyrail route, when protesters confronted them.
The protesters claim to have been friendly and were joking around and standing in front of the equipment. Project manager for Skyrail Mike Mahoney then arrived with two security guards.
According to Luke, a protester, "He was aggravating us, he wasn't taking any photos of the site — like it said in the paper — just straight up in your face, hassling!"
One protester grabbed the camera, and then Luke saw it on the ground and started to run off with it. Mahoney tackled him to the ground and wrestled with him. Another protester, Linda, came to Luke's rescue, saying "You can't do that!", and tried to separate them.
A security guard then punched Linda in the stomach. She punched him in the chest, and the security guard then attempted to king hit her. She was saved by Broyce, who deflected the blow.
Police arrived, arresting Luke for "wilful damage of property", while the security guard was not charged.
Helicopters are being used to deposit and remove equipment from the sites, and to pour concrete from a bucket. Five of the 37 sites have completed foundations. Skyrail employees complain of 11-hour days, as they hope to complete foundations before the wet season begins, around Christmas.
Manfred Stephens is still in his tree, and has not come down since the blockade began almost six months ago. His occupation of the tree prevents Skyrail from felling it, and makes it impossible to dig and pour tower foundations on that site.
A benefit "Rainforest Raindance" will be held at Kuranda Amphitheatre on December 18 to raise money to buy desperately needed ropes, cables and other equipment, and to encourage the wet season to start. Contact P.O. Box 375, Kuranda 4872.