Cops try to bust stop coal seam gas blockade

Friday, January 11, 2013
Police pull down parts of the blockade.

Campers at the Glenugie blockade, south-east of Grafton in NSW, were woken at dawn on January 7 to news that the police was on its way to escort a coal seam gas (CSG) drill rig to the drill site.

Metgasco want to drill in the beautiful Coldstream Wetlands at Glenugie in the Clarence Valley. Many nearby land holders have Lock the Gate triangles up on their fences and the community has overwhelmingly opposed Metgasco's attempt to begin drilling.

About 60 police, including the riot squad, arrived as more protesters came from the surrounding areas to support the blockaders. The crowd was pushed away from the gates where one man had locked-on to a high tripod and another to a lock buried in the ground.

While police rescue cut the men out, the protesters sang anti-CSG songs. Although worried for the men being cut out, the mood was high.

When a police officer started to take down a flag at the site, the crowd sang Advance Australia Fair and the officer stopped, although the flag was later taken down. A rope holding up the Aboriginal flag, which was hoisted above the Australian flag, was cut and the flag came down to cries of "Shame". It was later re-hoisted by another man in a tree.

The mood changed when the Riot Squad started pushing the crowd more forcefully down the road. The ends of the road had been closed so that people who continued to arrive throughout the day could not join the protest. The injustice of it all really hit me then.

Here we were, greenies, farmers, townies and the local community who had brought our children, being moved off a public road to clear it for Metgasco and Coates Hire trucks.

We were conducting a lawful protest; we were peaceful and non-violent. Many of us were in tears and some of us were chanting.

A couple of people were shouting with rage but there was always someone who came to comfort and calm them and keep it non-violent. The riot police formed a line and pushed us forward. Older women found it particularly distressing being physically pushed by young male police officers. 

Everyone was looking out for the small children, and older people and anyone who had stumbled or were pushed too hard. Several people were tackled to the ground. It took until the early afternoon for the crowd to be pushed perhaps half a kilometre down the road in the blistering hot sun so the drill rig could enter the site. 

How can a public road be closed to the community while open to private interests? How can our police force be working for a company and not the community?

The victory on the day was that we were non-violent. We can't be discredited. We are on the right side of history. We were several hundred people. What could we achieve with several thousand?

[A call out has been made for anti-coal seam gas campaigners to join the newly re-inforced blockade on January 13. Sandy Thompson is a member of Stop CSG Sydney.]

From GLW issue 950