Activists charged for protecting Florentine

Issue 

One month after 400 people entered an Upper Florentine "exclusion zone" to protest against the logging of old-growth forests in Tasmania on January 18, charges of trespass have been laid against 11 people.

Activists have asked why, if 400 people participated in the demonstration, only 11 people are being specially targeted by police.

Susan Austin, Socialist Alliance Hobart co-ordinator and protest participant, told Green Left Weekly: "I saw police filming us during the peaceful community walk-in, but didn't think they would stoop so low as this. I can only assume they are trying to intimidate people from standing up for what they believe in. We can't let them get away with this."

The Upper Florentine is an old-growth forest containing a mature rainforest understorey along with giant eucalypts that are more than 300 years old. Some of the trees are three metres in diameter and reach 70 metres high — the height of a 24-storey building.

The area is subject to plans by Forestry Tasmania for dozens of logging sites.

One of those charged is Geoff Law, former Tasmania campaign coordinator of The Wilderness Society.

"Along with about 400 other people, I walked into the Upper Florentine to protest at the destruction of a forest that is an integral part of Tasmania's wilderness and should be part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area", Law said in a media statement on February 17.

"I attended that rally to help the peaceful defence of an ancient forest that has never been logged before.

"Premier [David] Bartlett's failure to meet with conservationists to help resolve the forests debate has led to members of the public being charged for peacefully walking on to public land", he said.