One of two young people seized and held down by loggers at a private property on Whian Whian Road yesterday was treated in hospital last night for injuries to his neck and back in a dramatic escalation of the protest against logging there.
The loggers have been accused of acting like vigilantes by taking the law into their own hands when arresting the two young people.
Police have denied they had advised or ‘coached’ loggers to make the ‘citizen arrests’ which infuriated protesters who accused the loggers of acting like ‘gorillas’ on the property where landowners have recommenced felling.
A police media spokesperson told Echonetdaily they do not encourage anyone to detain people over minor offences such as trespassing.
Around 10 loggers jumped on one of the youngsters at the top of the hill and held him down in a headlock for around 45 minutes till police arrived to help the loggers and took them to the Lismore lock-up,’ Whian Whian Forest Alliance spokesman Patrick Tatam told Echonetdaily.
The two young people have been released after being charged with trespassing.
Mr Tatam said the two youths were ‘falsely accused by the loggers of threatening them with machetes’.
‘It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing we can do. These guys (loggers) acted like gorillas; one of the youngsters suffered bruising to the back of his neck and head as a result,’ he said.
Echonetdaily has sought comment from police.
Despite ongoing protests by concerned locals, a final tranche of already-logged trees was removed under police guard by at least seven jinkers on Tuesday. The logging of the mature blackbutt trees continues apace despite independent investigations proving the proximity of at least five endangered species.
This morning a third heavy bulldozer was escorted by police onto the property.
On Tuesday afternoon the owner of the adjoining property, through which loggers’ trucks had to pass to access the felled trees, tore up an agreement to allow his road to be used.
Mr Tatam said last night that he believed the sounds he could hear from his nearby home could herald the construction of ‘yet another road’ to enable further logging.
He said that the loggers started their chainsaws and bulldozer just before 3pm, and in the space of some 20 minutes had felled at least four very large trees along the ridge area above his neighbouring property.
‘This provoked a reaction among the group of forest protectors who had been camped on the adjoining owner’s property, and a group of them entered the logging property to voice their objections to the Forestry Commission (FC) reneging on their previous advice to cease logging,’ he said.
‘A violent reaction from the loggers resulted in two of the objectors being apprehended in so-called “citizen arrests”: the police down at the bottom entrance to the logging property advised me that they had coached these loggers as to how to carry out such arrests.
‘Following a call from the loggers to Lismore police, the latter promptly despatched at least seven vehicles to the logging property (a distance of some 35 kilometres) to complete the “arrests”.
‘The police were suggesting justification arising from “machetes” being brandished by some of the protectors, vandalising of machinery and other vague accusations.’
Mr Tatam said the accusations were without foundation.
On the weekend, independent biologists, who inspected the property under an agreement between the Alliance and NSW Forestry, reported finding ‘at least five’ endangered species.