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March 27, 2023

Police raid on dance event ‘over the top’

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The scene at last year's Rabbits Eat Lettuce dance event near Casino. Photo REL
The scene at last year’s Rabbits Eat Lettuce dance event near Casino. Photo REL

Chris Dobney

A police raid that closed down a weekend dance party on private land near Coffs Harbour was an over-reaction according to organisers.

The event, at Ebor, was closed down in its early stages on Saturday afternoon when just over 150 people had arrived and were in the process of setting up camp.

It was organised by Rabbits Eat Lettuce and was intended as a launch event for a much larger Easter party in the Richmond Valley.

The Rabbits Eat Lettuce (REL) electronic dance music parties have been running for around six years and are attended by up to 1500 people. Last year’s event ran without incident near Casino.

Police said they were called to the party because, NSW Forestry, which owns land on the Styx River adjoining the event site, expressed concerns there were illegal campsites, cars and portaloos in the forest.

Coffs Harbour Shire Council had attempted to have the party stopped by the Land and Environment Court on Friday afternoon but organisers told them they had the wrong site.

Police said they attempted to speak with the event organisers at the site but were ‘denied entry and shown a handwritten note allegedly granting permission to hold the event from the land owner’.

‘As police and forestry rangers began to clear the forestry land, organisers of the party moved all persons there onto the adjacent private property, telling partygoers that police could not stop them from holding the event,’ a police media spokesperson said.

But police say they managed to persuade the landowner to revoke permission for the event and then went about disbanding it.

‘About 5.30pm, police issued demands to the organisers and patrons to shut down the party. When this did not occur, police cut open locked gates to gain entry and shut down the event without further incident,’ the spokesperson added.

‘Senior police also authorised the use of a roadblock to turn around a large number of people attempting to attend the event.’

Just one person was charged over the raid, for trespass. There were no drug arrests.

REL organiser Erik Lamir says that police had got it wrong and the coming Easter event will be fully approved.

‘It was definitely an over-reaction to send 50 police out into the forest to stop people dancing,’ told ABC radio this morning.

‘They had sniffer dogs but they didn’t find any drugs at all, they didn’t make any arrests as far as I’m aware. So what were they doing? They were stopping people dancing.

Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command crime manager, detective inspector Darren Jameson said ‘with the number of recent tragic deaths and overdoses resulting from illicit drug use at these types of events, I cannot stress enough that prohibited drugs are not only illegal, but are highly dangerous and potentially life-threatening’.

‘We are very happy to provide support to organisers who want to hold events in the area, but only if they seek appropriate approvals and do not put the community at risk.’

But Mr Lamir said there were paramedics and security on site and no one was in any danger.

Police have gone further and warned people to be wary of buying tickets for the main Easter event, which has yet to be approved by Richmond Valley Council.

But Mr Lamir says REL has a good relationship with Richmond Valley Council, has held events there with council approval and expects that will be the case again.

‘If in the event the approval doesn’t come through we’ll just issue full refunds but… we’ve got our emergency plans in place, we’ve got a professional team to run the event so I don’t think there’s going to be a problem,’ Mr Lamir said.

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  1. Government sponsored domestic terrorism, loss of human rights and abuse of power is alive an well in tony abbotts fascist australia

    no fun allowed… except government and corporate approved fun of course…

  2. Why do you “wild colonial boys” with the much vaunted “disrespect for authority” put up with this Fascist rubbish?. The NSW Police forces actions would never be allowed in free countries like England and if the police did this in France there would be uproar and sackings. Australia – the top nanny state!. Stop pretending draconian authorities, vast and oppressive rules and aggressive police and not the dominant feature of good old once free thinking OZ.

  3. very simple, get the right permits for your party, don’t encroach on other peoples or crown land, organize proper security and noise control and ban all illegal drugs and you are fee to dance all night. This would be far to hard to do for greedy duff organizers, their logic is to go further into the bush and make more money with less overheads, stuff any neighbors nearby. Hope the police makes a point of closing all of them down as soon as they rise there noisy head

  4. When is the world going to recognise that the Planet Earth is a dangerous place and stop people living there and having fun. Every year people die in their thousands, get hurt by others, die of oversdoses, avoidable accidents, etc. People also do many legal, illegal things, live life to the fullest, enjoy themselves, seek the answers to the universe and in the end, no one gets out alive.

    Using the idea that people die at events and thus events have to be stopped is a pathetic attempt to exert authority over people. Police should be able to attend events in the capacity to help when it is needed, but not to shutdown the event.

  5. Young people and alternative activities have no place in the Australian society. You have to obey the rules and get a mortgage as soon as you can. These activities are not approved by the fair go policy and what is more outrageous is that the people that choose to live and have fun this way are denied to do so with embarrassing excuses. We are treated like children that behave foolishly when making decisions and we should be constantly supervised by a higher authority that knows what’s best for us.
    I’m not allowed to drink a beer in the street after diner while walking, which is a perfectly civilised activity, responsible and mature behaviour, because certain individuals don’t know how to behave in public.
    Laws are shaping the cultural scene of Australia in a way that leaves no room to turn around or look elsewhere.
    This article shows the preoccupation of police and lawmakers about the deaths of youngsters for trying to scape this boring society with drugs.
    There are more deaths on the roads, should we ban driving?
    Why not fight one activity by providing access to a much better, cheaper one rather than BAN, BAN, BAN?
    Aren’t we part of this society?
    Can we express ourselves and exercise our free will as responsible adults?
    How many more things are you going to prohibit us from doing?
    Isn’t it food for thought that is more difficult to enjoy a beer in Australia than in a Muslim country like Malaysia where the full majority doesn’t drink alcohol but show their respect to other people by allowing foreign customs?
    Aussie, time to ask for more!

  6. Two Australians about to be shot to death in Indonesia and you are worried about a police raid. Good onya boys in blue. Keep the drugs off the streets and the scum in prison where they belong. Every event these days has these sort of police activities. If your kid was there and wS offered illegal drugs and died you’d be jumping up and down. Laughable really. Why don’t you wake up !

  7. i work at these events, i myself witnessed a complete lack of regard towards the safety of the youth that were told to leave. Several youths approached officers and admitted to being heavily intoxicated and unable to drive, the police stated it was not their problem, but if they were not to leave they would be forcible removed and their vehicles towed at their own expense. The police came to location, with no plan, they stood around looking at us and chatting amongst themselves for over 2 hours before they could convince the land owners to revoke the lease and then made forced entry whilst maintaining if anyone was to come close to them their dogs would attack us. The person they claim to have charged with tresspass was infact let go about 45 minutes after being walked to the police car due to his calm and reasonable negotiations with the police. Camping was permitted on the public land, it is a known 4×4, camping and fishing spot, and 150 people on private land with some music is about as crazy as a large wedding reception. This was a complete waste of Coffs Councils money, rather than trying to recover the costs of their new police station and courthouse by harassing the youth, why dont you take care of the hard drug sellers and users in the direct coffs area. Keep the people in town safe from the agressive drunks at the pubs rather than travelling 110km out of the area to make an announcement on a megaphone. Also for any media that may be interested. Look into Detective Darren Jameson, and his time in 2010 running for election in the Central Coast NSW. He has an issue with young people and has from the start. Not the most glamorous history for a policeman whos claiming to “clean up Coffs Harbour”


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