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May 8, 2021

Police ‘tortured’ protester

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Protester Gareth prepares to lock on to a truck yesterday. Photo Marie Cameron
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Luis Feliu

NSW police are investigating an incident where a protester chained to equipment was sprayed in the face with capsicum spray by a policeman at the Doubtful Creek anti CSG blockade near Kyogle on Tuesday.

The incident, reported nationally this morning by the ABC AM program, amounted to ‘torture’ of the protester, and not just an assault, according to a law lecturer.

As reported exclusively in Echonetdaily yesterday, the protester named Gareth locked on to the underside of the truck on Tuesday afternoon as drilling vehicles left the Metgasco CSG site.

Southern Cross University (SCU) law lecturer Aidan Ricketts told AM that the police officer ‘in this case has gone too far’ and expected Gareth to lodge a formal complaint against police.

‘At law that would be an assault or possibly an assault occasioning actual bodily harm,’ Mr Ricketts, a liaison officer between police and protesters, said.

‘Clearly, where a person has both arms locked and can’t remove themselves, to spray them in the face with capsicum spray isn’t just an assault, it pretty much amounts to torture and we view that very, very gravely.

‘We certainly expect that senior police will investigate this inappropriate action.’

Northern Rivers Guardians spokesman Scott Sledge told AM that he was on other side of the truck when Gareth was sprayed and he yelled to police that they could ‘not do that as he was locked on and defenceless and that’s torture’.

NSW Police have confirmed capsicum spray was used on the 45 year old protester and that an investigation would take place.

Police guidelines, according to AM, say capsicum spray can only be used on three occasions: to protect human life, as a less lethal option for controlling people where violent resistance or confrontation occurs, or as protection against animals.

Yesterday, Gareth told Echonetdaily that police ‘held the capsicum spray up to my face and filled my eyes full of capsicum spray.

‘When I wouldn’t unlock, they then used pain compliance techniques. They were pinching my elbows and pushing down on my foot into a straight position.

‘They did it for a short period of time. They realised that it was just pissing me off and that it wasn’t going to work, and they stopped at the instigation of the police rescue guy.’

Gareth was arrested and taken to Lismore Police station but he wasn’t charged.

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  1. It’s a sad day for Australia – clearly the police have ceased being of service to the people and are now doing the bidding of the big corporations. The police have lost their mandate to protect and serve, and they have lost my support. What we can see from non-violent protest, is the hidden power behind the scenes is revealed – disturbing to say the least.

  2. Yes the police will investigate and the officer in question will get a slap on their wrist. I highly doubt he will face the same kind of punishment anyone else in the community would in the same circumstances.

    It’s time the media stopped using the term ‘protestor’ and replaced it with another less demeaning term e.g. ‘environmental protector’ or ‘concerned resident.’

    If this police officer is not laid off and punished, I predict police violence to environmental protectors will escalate.

    The Australian pattern of public ownership of mineral resources and separation of mineral rights
    from surface land rights is not a universal one. For example, significant private ownership of
    minerals occurs in other countries such as the USA, the UK, Canada and South Africa.
    Constitutional division of powers
    An important feature of the Australian system of Crown ownership is that the national level of
    government is not the principal holder of mineral rights. Since mining is not explicitly mentioned
    in the Australian Constitution, ownership of minerals found onshore or offshore within the three
    (nautical) mile territorial limit defaults to the relevant State/Territory government. Minerals found
    beyond the three mile limit or in external territories are the property of the Commonwealth. This
    division is one which evolved historically rather than one based on underlying principles of equity
    (are citizens of a resource-rich State any more deserving than those of less well-endowed States?).
    There are exceptions, however, to this general division of property rights between the State and
    Commonwealth Governments. The most important of these occurs in the Northern Territory where
    the Commonwealth Government retained property rights over uranium and other substances
    prescribed in the Atomic Energy Act 1953, following the granting of self-government to the
    Other aspects of the Australian Constitution also serve to blur the division of mineral rights
    between the State/Territory and Commonwealth levels of government. Commonwealth power over
    matters such as international trade, taxation, defence, people of any race, and external affairs
    (including World Heritage listings etc) can be exercised in some cases to severely restrict the rights
    of the various State/Territory governments to use as they see fit the resources over which they have
    claim. For example, the rights of the Queensland Government to use the resources it owns on
    Fraser Island were constrained by the Commonwealth Government’s imposition of export controls
    over mineral sand products. Several participants (eg the Trades and Labour Council of Western
    Australia sub. 39, p.33) noted that in recent times the Commonwealth has increased its involvement
    in resource development via such indirect means.
    How do States/Territories exercise their mineral rights?
    The above qualifications aside, it is generally State/Territory governments which own and control
    mineral resources on behalf of the people they represent. Usually, however, governments do not
    explore and develop these resources themselves, but confer the right to do so on others. Typically,
    these rights are not transferred outright; rather, temporary ownership is effected via the granting to
    private – sector interests of exploration and mining leases for specified periods.
    What are the broad features of this system?


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