Police resorted to pepper spray and ‘pain compliance’ techniques in an effort to get a protester to unlock himself from a vehicle at Doubtful Creek yesterday.
About 50 protesters, including two men who locked on, held up the company’s exit from the property at Metgasco’s CSG test drilling site until early evening.
One man, who was locked on to a ‘dragon’ buried at the front gate to Eden Creek State Forest, held up the convoy for most of the day.
As he was removed by police in the late afternoon, protesters sat in front of vehicles leaving the park. A second man, Gareth, locked on to one of the components on the underside of the truck at around 5pm.
In an exclusive interview with Echonetdaily, Gareth said three police officers, including two local police and one from police rescue, sprayed capsicum spray in his eyes in an effort to force him to unlock himself.
‘They held the capsicum spray up to my face and filled my eyes full of capsicum spray,’ he said.
‘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 said they then went about cutting him free of the locking device, a process that took about two hours.
Gareth was arrested and taken to Lismore Police station; his identity was established but he wasn’t charged. Undaunted, he has since returned to the protest site.
‘The truck did leave last night, owing to the strong police presence; however, the drill rig, which is symbolic as the number one earth desecrator, is still in the yard,’ he said this morning.
Gareth said there are about 50 protesters but currently no police at the site.
He added that protesters were all in high spirits.
Gareth said he took his action because of the lack of consent of the Githabul landholders to the company’s activities.
‘This activity on Githabul sovereign land without the consent of the Githabul elders in council is part of the ongoing genocide. I locked on yesterday to point this out. The consent of the tribal owners of this land has never been given to this fracking activity.’
According to freelance reporter Marie Cameron, it took police seven hours and a backhoe to release the first ‘Simmo’ (nickname for someone who locks on).
‘Police rescue unit and an ambulance attended; [later a ] back hoe was brought in. After seven hours and the use of a spade, a crow bar, an angle grinder, a back hoe and a jack hammer Simmo was freed.’
She added that when the second lock on happened, ‘the trucks were stopped and police had protesters coming at them from every direction’.
After Gareth was freed she said the police directed the trucks to turn right.
‘Straight away a coffin draped with an aboriginal flag carried by pall bearers formed a procession and a large group of people proceeded to walk down Knights Road at a funeral pace. Lead by Doubtful Creek man Daniel Peterson carrying a protest damaged aboriginal flag the somber march slowed the trucks down.
‘In view of the property and the family who had signed the Metgasco agreement that allowed the CSG well into area people chanted “we shall not be moved.” The police had to deal with a scrum of unhappy protesters. Police did succeed in moving them to one side allowing the trucks to gain speed and leave the protest behind. Protester angst increased and the police were left with an unhappy mob. Very quickly a set of handcuffs were placed on a man and the crowd showed equal determination that he would be freed.
‘At the same time on Bolans Road the trucks encountered an empty car wedged onto an old wooden bridge. Police had to drag it backwards up a hill to allow the trucks to pass.
‘At around 6pm all the trucks that could leave were gone but the rig was still inside the forest. The Doubtful Creek protest is not over yet.’
Protesters expect the rig’s owner, AJ Lucas, to attempt to remove it today.