Two middle aged women were peacefully protesting the Santos Leewood Waste Water Facility which Santos are trying to construct illegally at the Pilliga Forest in North Western NSW. While protesting they were assaulted by police while in a position from which they could not obey any order to move on because they were locked on.
One of the Narrabri Police officers attending, Officer Grant Bell came around from behind and reefed one of the women's sunglasses from her face, while clumsily grabbing her hair and pushing her head backwards he commenced to spray at close range his oleoresin capsicum spray into her eyes and mouth. If that was not enough violence unleashed by someone acting unbalanced against someone who could not move, he then picked her up and threw her over the machinery whilst her arm was still in the lock on contraption attached to the machine. This unnecessary action by this officer caused the clearly distressed woman's dress to come off and for her to be fully exposed to all of the Santos workers on site at the time.
The police officer taking this type of action displays he is not in control and shows he could jeopardize work colleagues in a truly dangerous situation if he cannot keep his cool in a peaceful non violent situation, the officer is clearly capable of making very poor decisions in a situation that requires quick evaluation and action.
The bully tactics by police and government bend this situation to look very much like we Australians have lost our right to protest poor government decisions which we deem to effect everyone across the board.
|Santos Office at Narrabri|
These warrior women were attempting to protect the land and water and especially the water of the Great Artesian Basin from contamination by Santos when the attack occurred, they are clearly not terrorists.
If we are prevented from speaking out then we have lost all of our rights as citizens of this country because we can never speak out with out the fear of punitive and violent action against us.
Media Release:Pilliga Push Mob Protesting Santos
Violent actions by one police officer at yesterday’s peaceful protest against CSG activities in the Pilliga forest in North West NSW has triggered calls for the Government to halt Santos’ operations there, given they are subject to legal challenge and triggering large-scale protest.
Yesterday morning two South Australian women in their 40s were locked on to an excavator at gas company Santos’ controversial Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility near the Pilliga forest. They were attached to each other through a metal pipe over the arm of the excavator and each had only one arm free.
The women were protesting the construction of the Leewood CSG wastewater facility and the broader plans for 850 CSG wells in the Pilliga forest. The government’s action in approving the facility last year without an Environmental Impact Statement is the subject of a court case, due for a directions hearing in the Land and Environment Court on Friday. Despite the court challenge over the legality of the facility, Santos have begun constructing it, triggering large scale peaceful protest led by Gamiliaraay Traditional Owners and local farmers, joined by people from around NSW and beyond.
The two women at yesterday’s protest attached themselves to machinery at 9am, calling for Santos to withdraw from the Narrabri gas project. By 9.40 police had arrived and all other protesters had been removed from the site. Only minutes after the police requested the women remove themselves, one of the officers had ripped off the sunglasses off Kerri Tonkin, yanked her head back by her hair and pepper sprayed her eyes at close range. Whilst Kerri was shocked, blinded and in extreme pain the two officers lifted her up and threw her over the arm of the excavator whilst her arm was still in the metal pipe.
Kerri Tonkin explains the experience. “Yesterday I was peacefully protesting to protect our land and water from coal seam gas. I was in a vulnerable position with only one arm free and without the freedom to move around. The actions of the police officers were excessive and dangerous. I’m surprised I did leave with a dislocated shoulder or a broken arm.”
Cyd Fenwick was locked with Kerri. “The escalation of the situation by police was sudden and excessive. Police had only just asked us to move before they used this force. There was absolutely no provocation from either of us to result in this heavy response.”
Naomi Hodgson said, “This action by the police is unacceptable: we simply cannot have a situation where Police officers believe they are empowered to physically assault members of the community that pose them no harm – no matter what the circumstances. We will be filing a complaint about this incident, but given the question marks over the legality of the Leewood facility’s environmental approval, and the widespread and committed opposition to it around the region, we’re calling on the NSW Govt to ask Santos to stand down until the court case is heard.
Lawyer for the two women Kira Levin of EDO NSW said “the use of Oleoresin capsicum spray by police at a peaceful environmental protest would appear to be excessive. There is a long history in Australia of police response to environmental protest and pepper spray has not been a part of it.”