Rally protesters 'go too far'

THE Repco Rally Australia was marred yesterday after two stages scheduled for Byrill Creek Road near Uki were abandoned after protesters threw rocks and sticks at the passing cars.

Police, politicians, competitors and spectators have condemned the actions of a few who risked lives on the sixth stage.

According to police, officers removed boulders on the Byrill Creek stage, named CTEK East, that had been placed on the road before the competitors arrived.

However, when World Rally Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen began the first run about 10.30am he had projectiles thrown at his car.

Hirvonen and his car escaped damage but a second stage at the same location in the afternoon was called off.

Hirvonen's BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala, confirmed the police report.

“I understand protesting, but once they play with the safety things it's going too far,” he said.

“They should respect it's a competition.

“There can be a really big effect from rocks.”

Tweed-Byron police Local Area Commander Superintendent Michael Kenny said police were continuing their investigations.

“While police respect individual's rights to protest, we will not tolerate the behaviour that has been displayed,” Supt Kenny said.

“The protesters involved in this rock throwing incident have shown total disregard for the safety of competitors and officials involved in that stage of the event.

“Their behaviour had the potential to seriously injure or kill someone.

“I will make no apologies for coming down hard on anyone considering radical action.

“Protesters who abide by the law have nothing to fear, however any action that is unlawful will not be tolerated, nor will any action that endangers people's safety.”

Some Byrrill Creek Road residents celebrated the axing of the two stages.

One resident reported seeing a group of people hiding in bushes next to the road. When the cars went by they began throwing rocks and sticks at them.

Retired Barkers Vale Primary School principal and former Lismore Labor candidate Peter Lanyon was caught in his own controversy, saying he was arrested for refusing a move-on direction from police.

Mr Lanyon, 63, said he had been posing for a photo with Broken Head-based Greens MLC Ian Cohen - at a different part of the rally - when police told him to leave. He argued and was arrested and charged.

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