Before first light the police arrived in force. There have been 25 arrests today. Around 100 campers were woken by police. At least 70 Police ahead of a huge convoy of Browse Joint Venture vehicles including bulldozers and other heavy machinery approached the camp.
In the pre-dawn 7 Police cars were at first held up. After some discussion the police vehicles were allowed through – just like all tourists and local vehicles have been for 30 days (without the friendly wave and well wishes that were customary). Woodside/Browse JV (Shell, Chevron, BP, BHP) contractors cars were not allowed through. A large number of the huge police contingent then attempted to break the blockade but were outnumbered by protesters, whose numbers had swelled to around 200.
Police ironically blockaded the main Cape Leveque road before the Manari road turnoff camp/blockade site which for 30 days has been watched by protesters. The intent was to deny access to potential protesters from town, but they later re-opened the road.
The protesters had no intention of allowing clearing and drilling workers or machinery through. They stood on principle. Protesters were supporting Indigenous Custodians to protect Culture and Country. They were acting to stop the environmental and social nightmare of a polluting gas plant on their doorstep. There were also justified concerns expressed about this development being a ‘thin edge of the wedge’ for industrialisation of the Kimberley, one of the worlds last great wilderness areas.
Police moved in with clear intentions of making arrests. There were tears as 3 Indigenous women including a grandmother and her granddaughter were forcibly carried away from the protest. This during NAIDOC week… Other brave people including mothers and grandmothers were hauled away for their peaceful protest as they refused to move out of the way of bulldozers and drill workers.
One by one 10 protesters were carted away to the Broome ‘lock up’. At this point the police changed tactics (possibly having run out of transport for those arrested) and a stand off ensued. Various negotiations and tactics were employed, including an attempt to push through as a moving ‘wall’. One more protester was arrested at this time. Carmel – a gentle and well loved Broome local. Like the protesters with her she believes that she has a responsibility to stop clearing and drilling at James Price Point. The blockade simply reformed behind the police and in front of the Woodside/ Browse JV contractors.
The police then backed off and some were seen to be eating lunch. At this point the protesters had held off the full force of 70 odd police and the heavy machinery for 6 hours… but, directed by Premier Barnett, this situation was not likely to remain stable.
In the afternoon police approached the protest camp, with bulldozers and drill crews behind them. Police obviously had been instructed to arrest at will, and more arrests occurred. One protester ‘locked on’ to one of the bulldozers, and was cut loose with an angle grinder. The highly trained ‘special forces’ division of the police moved together, military style, pushing and shoving to essentially herd the people like cattle along the road.
Then it got really ugly… with nightfall approaching and most media left behind with their evening news stories filed, the police picked up the pace. They formed a wedge and pushing, shoving and even gang tackling those in the way, started running toward and through protesters. Cars, trucks and bulldozers driven by untrained contractors hired for the job picked up speed pacing the police charge. There were some very near misses as people and pet dogs risked falling under the wheels. Injuries were sustained by many and the disgust with the brutal tactics was palpable.
The personal, psychological and personal trauma experienced by the Broome community today will last in memory, and in resolve. The Broome community held off Woodside, BHP, BP, Shell and Chevron and the State Government for 30 days. It took a massive and inappropriate use of Government resources, in flying up a huge number of police at taxpayers expense to break through. And this is just preliminary works! Imagine what will happen if they actually make a final investment decision and try to build…
70+ police, many flown in specially, to protect the interests of a multinational oil and gas company… is this a wise use of taxpayer money? We can assure you the taxpayers that were arrested and traumatized today for peacefully trying to prevent pre-emptive clearing don’t think so. This development has no final investment decision, no federal environmental approval and is unnecessary. There are other, better, alternatives. The compulsory acquisition of land which was the ‘gun to the head’ for those Traditional Owners who have accepted payment to give up land is being challenged in court. A failure to get all required heritage clearances, and a breach of one they did get, is currently under investigation. But ‘bully’ Barnett pulled the trigger and sent in the Police against law abiding citizens who simply do not want to see the Kimberley destroyed and safely broke traffic laws to try and ensure that destruction did not happen.
The protest and other work to save the Kimberley will continue – your support is needed.
Want to help Save The Kimberley? http://www.givenow.com.au/savethekimberley – Your donation will help to pay protesters court costs and fines, raise awareness of this important issue and help Traditional Custodians and community to engage in legal challenges and access meetings with politicians and company representatives.
If you are interested in traveling to the Kimberley to help out look at http://kimberleydirectaction.wordpress.com/
WA police move on gas hub protest – the daily telegraph
Protesters stand firm amid arrests at gas hub site – WA Today – note this is inaccurate in its portrayal of the community protest being all Save The Kimberley members, Save The Kimberley supports the protest, the Indigenous Custodians lead it and the broader community are participating.