NIMBIN UNDER SIEGE
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org "EVERYBODY get down on the ground." Those were the first words Nimbin resident Nurit heard when 50 police from across the State yesterday raided the Nimbin Museum, Hemp Embassy and Hemp Bar.
Eight people were arrested and police seized four kilograms of cannabis, as well as cannabis cookies and smoking implements.
Sydney-based police from the Public Order and Riot Squad, wearing bullet-proof jackets and protective pads, led the raids, along with officers from the Dog Unit and the Richmond, Tweed and Coffs Harbour Local Area Commands.
About six police four-wheel-drives, as well as an RBT bus, were used to transport the officers into town.
Nurit was inside the museum about 11.30am when the police arrived. She said the police grabbed her shoulders and forced her to the ground.
"They came out of nowhere," she said.
"I've never been so scared. I was treated like a terrorist.
"My first thought was that I was glad I didn't have my kid here - it was full on. I respect the law and if something is wrong I would go to the police, but this is unjustified. How much money and effort is being spent? It was scary."
Cafe owner and Hemp Embassy volunteer Andrew Kavasilas said police used saliva swabs on people inside the embassy to determine whether they had marijuana in their blood system.
"Busting people for pot in Nimbin is like shooting fish in a barrel," he said.
"This is a real slap in the face for people who would like to see other resources in town. We have been inviting the police to come down and sort out the dealing in the museum for years and this is their response. They could work with the community, but they're not interested."
Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said CCTV cameras installed in the main street of Nimbin several years ago had pushed dealing off the streets and into the museum and they had been requesting police assistance to deal with the problem.
Richmond Local Area commander Superintendent Bruce Lyons said the raids were intended to send a clear message to anyone using or dealing drugs.
"Illegal drugs continue to be a blight on our society and the supply of these drugs in the Nimbin area is an issue repeatedly raised by the local community," Supt Lyons said.
He said the operation was ongoing and more arrests were expected. He denied accusations the raids were heavy-handed or 'overkill'.
"The police acted professionally and I do not believe it was overkill," he said.
When asked about the cost of the operation, he said he didn't have a figure, but he conceded it was an expensive exercise to bring police up from Sydney and provide accommodation for them.
"I'm not concerned with the cost of this operation. I think it has been effective, efficient and the public want it," Supt Lyons said.
"The message is clear, if you're going to deal in drugs, expect a visit from the police."