Princess Highway Action
At midday on 9 February, approximately thirty direct activists were lying in ambush on the side of the Princes Highway, opposite the Murrungower turnoff (a major logging road), awaiting a loaded logtruck. Further up the road around a slight bend were a couple of activists dressed as council workers, with fluro orange vests and some "slow down" signs; situated so as to slow down potential targets to a "workable" speed and once we had stopped a log-truck, warn and slow down oncoming traffic. Our aim was to lock down a logtruck for the day on the Princes Highway, so as to bring the issue of old growth logging in East Gippsland into public space and awareness (as opposed to the isolation of our actions in the bush); and in doing so RECLAIM that space, inform the public of the issues at hand, have a party whilst doing so, and put the logtruck driver in a position whereby he must take some responsibility for his job. Such was the plan: as usual, things turned out a bit differently...
Hiding in the shrubs on the side of the road, we were quite surprised when, on getting the warning signal that a logtruck was approaching, we find it is being escorted along the highway at walking speed by one of our crew in his van!? Immediately nearly thirty humbuggers jumped out from the bushes and raced towards the logtruck; moving in front of it and jumping on the bull-bar. Whilst our fellow activists were ensuring that the now stopped logtruck would remain so; two of us had quietly locked-on underneath the truck. The driver was informed, and persuaded to turn off the engine and remove the keys from the ignition. So with the logtruck secured, we cranked the doof from a van camouflaged so well for the urban setting it went unnoticed, and rocked the Princes Highway.
Yet it appears we weren't as inconspicuous as we thought: it turns out that a passing dairy truck driver (who used to be an Orbost cop!) smelled something was up just before we stopped the logtruck (perhaps it was the dreadlocks of one of the "council workers"?); and thus the boys in blue arrived soon after we locked-on. On arrival they arrested our first police liason as she announced herself, threw her in the divvy-van along with a second person, and then turned their attention to the lock-ons. Much to the embarrassment of the police, our first two arrestees were promptly "unarrested." Unable to decifer how exactly we were locked on, the police vented their frustrations by attempting to deny us support. They placed both of our support people under arrest; but after putting one of our support crew in the divvy, they simply issued our second buddy with a summons and allowed her to stay.
The police moved everyone away from the truck and off to the side of the road. They confiscated all our slow down signs, arrested one of our roadsafety people, parked their car in the middle of the road and then proceeded to direct oncoming traffic into each other. Some activists handed out information to the public on what our action was about.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment was eventually called in to anglegrind us out of the lock-on. Just prior to this the police stopped the traffic on both sides so that passers by could not witness them cutting us off; and activists took this opportunity to explain the situation to the drivers of the now piling up cars. Although we refused safety gear, they used the angle-grinder anyway, and we were removed by 3:40 pm. The police then made three more token arrests, as they'd felt we'd "gone too far", and took seven of us to the station for processing.
The two of us who were locked on are now facing seven charges, including public nuisance (at common law), reckless conduct endangering the public, and theft. Because these are quite serious offences we are going to trial. Reckless conduct and theft carry maximum penalties of 5 and 10 years jail respectively. It appears we've been hit with the book in order to be used as an example to discourage other activists from similar actions. This case could potentially set a dangerous legal precedent; and highlights the political discrimination we face from police and the legal system on a regular basis. It was worth it!
...alleged public nuisance...
If we're going to fight this and win, we really need other witnesses (who weren't locked on, and so could see what was going on around the jinker) to testify at the trial; especially in regards to how we handled the safety aspect - and then how the cops handled it when they arrived.
IF YOU WERE AT THIS ACTION, AND ESPECIALLY IF YOU WERE ONE OF THE SAFETY PEOPLE AND\OR "COUNCIL WORKERS"; OR IF YOU HAVE ANY FOOTAGE OR PHOTOS FROM THE ACTION WHICH MAY HELP, PLEASE CONTACT NECTARIA AND RENA AT GECO A.S.A.P