Police officers at the scene of a raid in Nimbin.
Police officers at the scene of a raid in Nimbin. Marc Stapelberg

PHOTOS: Heavy police presence ahead of MardiGrass

UPDATE, 3pm: AS POLICE continue to search the Hemp Embassy in Nimbin this afternoon, Richmond Police District Superintendent Toby Lindsay is urging festival revellers to expect a heavy police presence across the three days.

While Supt Lindsay said today's raids were carried out as a separate matter to MardiGrass but warned people they should be careful if they think about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"Police will conduct operations as and when needed," he said.

A police raid is under way at the Nimbin Hemp Embassy.
A police raid is under way at the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. Marc Stapelberg

"We will act on information and also what's observed.

"We need to uphold the law in NSW, illegal drugs including cannabis will be detected and prosecuted accordingly. The same police presence (will be at MardiGrass) as we always provide to ensure community safety."

Supt Lindsay said people can expect to see more police on the roads conducting random RBTs.

"What we ask is revellers enjoy themselves but clearly understand that NSW Police's priority is community safety, that's our number one priority in addition to upholding the laws of NSW," he said.

"I think clearly over the years police and the organisers have developed a relationship in relation to planning and also the response. We respect people's right to protest lawfully but again we go back to our core mission is to provide community safety and uphold the laws of NSW.

"Obviously over the years, police have had to undertake operations on the basis of information and also actions of revellers.

"This will be on ongoing relationship.

"We want people to take responsibility of themselves and their mates. We want them to have a good time but to do it safely. There will be a presence on the roads in relation to reduce the risk.

"We want people safe in arriving, safe at the event and safe going home."

 

UPDATE, 1.30pm: NIMBIN Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said today's police raid, just one day ahead of MardiGrass, would not deter the town from enjoying the event.

He said up to 50 officers converged on the building this morning.

"They (the police) surrounded the place ... we all had to file past the sniffer dogs," he said.

"Nimbin has huge resolve. We've been picked on for so long.

"We are not going to be daunted; it will probably make us more passionate for the weekend ahead.

"This is exactly why we have MardiGrass."

Mr Balderstone said police were still in Nimbin and volunteers were "nervously waiting".

MardiGrass volunteer Luke Summers said he felt the raid was a "bit of an injustice".

"They (the police) are just putting on a show of force because we're having a party and they're not," he said.

"The (MardiGrass) stage is still getting built… it hasn't slowed us down, it won't stop us. It will just make it more of a protest than a party."

Nimbin resident Saskia Kouwenberg said she grew up in a country where cannabis was legal and was "amazed" to see the raid happening.

"Personally I don't smoke… (but) I am flabbergasted this is happening in 2019 in Australia," she said.

"It (marijuana) is a medicine it is a very good herb and it should be legalised."

 

Original story: ABOUT 50 people have been forced to leave the Hemp Embassy in Nimbin this morning as police search the premises the day before MardiGrass.

A MardiGrass volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous, said 20 police arrived at the embassy shortly after 11am on Thursday with sniffer dogs and are not letting anyone into the building.

"They have a search warrant for the hemp embassy building," the volunteers said.

"No one is allowed in the building, the whole thing is blocked off."

A police raid is under way at the Nimbin Hemp Embassy.
A police raid is under way at the Nimbin Hemp Embassy.

The volunteer said today was the "busiest day" of the year for the Hemp Embassy as they prepare for the three day Mardi Grass festival, which starts on Friday.

"We have 50 volunteers here helping with Mardi Grass," she said.

"We've got a kitchen that is serving 200 meals a day and food needs to be prepared.

"Everyone was sniffed and searched as they were asked to leave the building."

More to come.



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