Police have claimed they were manhandled by a climate action group in NSW after launching a crackdown on private property.
A group of 30 to 40 people from Blockade Australia — known for their direct, disruptive protests — were at a Colo Valley campsite on Sunday morning, when they were met by police in a pre-emptive surveillance task. The group said on Monday that seven Blockade Australia demonstrators were arrested, with two being refused bail.
“Activists arrested for halting undercover police operation … Police in full camo gear, were stopped and questioned on private property. Backup was called,” they said. “NONE have committed a crime.”
Two officers in camouflage gear who were armed and masked approached the group, and remained silent when asked who they were and their reasons for being there, they said. Blockade Australia also claim they did not identify themselves as the police, and had no police markings on their attire.
Then, an unmarked black car arrived on the campsite to collect the two police officers, with the group claiming they “grabbed and pushed several climate activists before jumping into the vehicle” before it “sped towards people standing on the road” leaving two people injured.
It comes after the Perrottet Government passed a bill in April making it easier for the state to punish climate activists over illegal protests in NSW.
“We haven’t been given any details about whether what the protesters were doing was illegal, whether there was any preparation for actual illegal activity,” said a member of Legal Observers NSW to the ABC, commenting that there were allegedly 100 officers participating.
Meanwhile, NSW Police allege they “feared for their lives” during the confrontation, which saw a police car allegedly get damaged, and officers attacked. Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan claimed that Blockade Australia “pushed, shoved, and jostled” the group, and “let down the tyres” of a police vehicle — which Blockade Australia denies.
“Those police that were attacked by that group this morning feared for their lives,” he said. “I can assure you that what I saw this morning was violence from this group”.
“This is complete overreach,” Principal Lawyer Joe Harb from Sydney City Crime told The Guardian. “It is clear that police came merely to provoke a reaction and now they want to cry that they were the victims and in fear.”
Later in the morning, a massive police search and seizure operation was underway after the initial altercation that ran until nightfall.
“We will not be intimidated by the militarised police who squash dissent to the system that fuels the climate crisis,” said Blockade Australia in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “We will not cave to fear tactics.”