Photos Jimmy Malecki
Six of the 18 protesters arrested at Glenugie yesterday remained in police custody overnight after rejecting police conditions requiring them to stay away from the CSG test-drilling site if they were released.
The six, who are being held in police cells at Grafton, will appear before a local magistrate for a bail hearing this morning.
Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said the blockade had been ‘a huge success despite the company’s drill rig making it onto the property’.
It took a force of about 80 police nine hours to clear the blockaders before a drilling rig was finally escorted onto the site.
‘The bail conditions would have made it illegal for any of the six to go within three kilometres of the site and has been used by police in the past to try to shut down such campaigns,’ Mr Hutton said.
The arrests followed a massive police crackdown on the 48-day occupation of the area around the site, with 80 police, including riot squad officers, pouring into the area.
A number of protesters locked themselves on to objects at the site and police removed one man from a sitting structure built by the protesters, which they demolished.
A spokesperson for the protesters said they were ‘gravely concerned that police actions are placing the safety of a protestor at risk’.
Lynette Eggins told media yesterday afternoon, ‘Reports from the site suggest that the police tactical response unit have removed all support structures on which a protestor was perched high up in a tree adjacent to the CSG drilling site. It appears that the protestor is without any form of rope or other support in the tree.
‘Just as the police called on the community earlier today to not place their own or others’ safety at risk, the community now calls on the NSW police force to take every precaution to ensure that the protestor concerned is safe at all times,’ she said.
Those arrested ranged in age from 16 to 67, with most aged in their 40s and 50s.
The majority were charged with resist or hinder police officer in the execution of duty, pedestrian obstruct driver’s/other pedestrian’s path and refuse/fail to comply with direction.
A 52-year-old man was charged with was charged with destroy or damage property, according to police media.
‘The courageous stand taken by the community at Glenugie today is an historic landmark in the struggle to keep the region free of invasive gas fields,’ said CSG-Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Annie Kia.
‘The whole blockade has been an outstanding example of the determination and spirit of local communities in their defence of the natural environment and community values that they love and cherish.
‘The Glenugie community has undertaken the grassroots gasfield-free communities’ surveys and the vast majority of local residents are overwhelmingly opposed to industrialisation of their beautiful home.’
‘This blockade has proven that communities are prepared to band together and peacefully protest against an industry that is unsafe and unwanted and we are likely to see these sort of actions in other parts of our region under threat from coal-seam gas operations,’ she said
Mr Hutton said, ‘Metgasco will run into the same sorts of resistance wherever it tries to bring major equipment like drill rigs into a community that doesn’t want them’.
‘I am very proud of all the people who mounted today’s resistance and it shows the determination of them, and many like them, to keep coal-seam gas out of their region.’
SCU law lecturer Aidan Ricketts said the action was ‘a massive show of force from the NSW police that will do nothing to dent the resolve of northern rivers residents to stay CSG free.
‘If it takes such massive police resources to facilitate a single day of CSG operations, what will happen on the other 364 days of resistance to Metgasco’s activities?
‘There is no way that the state government will be able to sustain maximum policing in the long term with the northern rivers community, and other communities across the state, opposing the industry at every coal-seam gas site.’
Coffs/Clarence Local Area Commander, Superintendent Mark Holahan, said police would continue to monitor the site today.
‘The large majority of protesters at Glenugie have been co-operating, and we thank them for that.
‘However, our responsibility to respond to unlawful conduct remains.
‘I understand this is a very emotive issue for some people, but people still need to act within the confines of the law,’ Superintendent Holahan said.
Greens spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham told ABC radio this morning, ‘this industry does not have a social licence. It hasn’t got any support in the community and people are putting their bodies on the line defending their land and water.
‘The people of the northern rivers should be congratulated for doing that by people across NSW and Australia.’