Top cop praises protestors but defends arrests
LOCAL Area Commander, Superintendent Mark Holahan, has praised the "peaceful" action of protestors at the Glenugie blockade yesterday but defended police action saying 18 "went too far".
Yesterday 18 protestors were arrested and 25 charges were laid - mostly for resisting/hindering police and public obstruction.
While most are listed to appear in Grafton Local Court next month, six of the 18 arrested refused to sign their bail conditions and face the Grafton magistrate today.
Stakeholders are expected to be watching the outcome of those cases with extreme interest.
While protestors are reporting an exit of police numbers from the Glenugie CSG site today, Supt Holahan says police will continue to maintain a presence.
"We've seen people exercising their right to protest in a lawful manner," Supt Holahan said.
"Yesterday the majority of protesters co-operated with police and complied with their directions unfortunately we're alleging 18 people took things too far.
"We as police have a responsibility to ensure we have the resources ready to respond if necessary ... I understand this can be a very emotive issue, but people still need to act within the confines of the law."
Meanwhile anti-CSG activists are claiming a moral victory in the 48-day blockade and have vowed to continue the action at the site.
"The courageous stand taken by the community at Glenugie ... is an historic landmark in the struggle to keep the region free of invasive gas fields," CSG free Northern Rivers spokesperson Annie Kia said.
"The Glenugie community has undertaken the grass roots gas field free communities surveys and the vast majority of local residents are overwhelmingly opposed to (CSG).
"This blockade has proven that communities are prepared to band together and peacefully protest against an industry that is unsafe and unwanted and we are likely to see these sorts of actions in other parts of our region under threat from coal seam gas operations," she said.
SCU law lecturer Aidan Ricketts said the show of force from the NSW police would do nothing to dent the resolve of Northern Rivers residents to stay CSG free.
"If it takes such massive police resources to facilitate a single day of CSG operations what will happen on the other 364 days of resistance to Metgasco's activities," he asked.
"There is no way that the state government will be able to sustain maximum policing in the long term with the Northern Rivers community, and other communities across the state, opposing the industry at every coal seam gas site."