New South Wales police have defended their raid on a group of climate protesters in north-west Sydney on Sunday, alleging that the group was planning “extreme forms” of protest and acted aggressively towards officers.
On Sunday morning, police deployed significant numbers to a property at Colo, in Sydney’s northwest, after a confrontation with Blockade Australia. In March, this group caused blockades at Port Botany, the city’s major port.
Police say they were investigating the group as it prepared and planned for more protest activity on Sunday when protesters acted aggressively towards investigating officers in an unmarked car and either slashed or let down the vehicle’s tires.
That prompted a more comprehensive police response, according to the acting assistant commissioner Paul Dunstan.
“That police that was attacked by that group this morning feared for their lives,” he said. “They called for urgent assistance, and police from all over the Sydney metropolitan area [who] responded to assist and provide aid to those police officers.”
There were no injuries to the police.
Blockade Australia protesters described the police actions on Sunday as “insane overreach” and a large-scale raid.
“Police are raiding our beautiful camp. Groups of cops in camo (sic) gear with guns surrounded our camp this morning,” the group said in a statement on Facebook. “Dog squad, riot police, helicopters, and fully militarised police are all over us.”
“This is how a system based on climate destruction responds to a movement of nonviolent climate defenders.”
Activist Zelda Grimshaw told the Sydney Morning Herald:
“This level of police repression of the climate movement is unprecedented. We now suffer multiple impacts of Australia’s continued climate destruction with unprecedented fires, floods, and repression.”
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Police were deployed from nearby police area commands and specialist resources, including PolAir, the police dog squad, the riot squad, police rescue, and the operations support group.
Two people have been arrested, and more arrests are planned, police say. Officers were still conducting a search of the property on Sunday afternoon.
Police established a strike force, named Force Guard, after the earlier protests in March, and. NSWiament introduced new laws and penalties in April specifically targeting protests that blockings and ports.
Dunstan was asked what specifically the police were investigating on Sunday before the confrontation.
He alleged the activists were “practicing, rehearsing and constructing items to conduct similar methods of protest that they conducted during the March protest activity, where you saw elaborate objects being formed and put in the middle of the roadways to disrupt vehicle activity and trains around the Sydney area ultimately”.