by Gerry Georgatos
Today, Monday May 14, after yesterday’s peaceful protest by 600 folk outside Broome Police Station, police are amassing in large numbers at Blacktank camp access route – to ensure Woodside Petroleum geophysical site work for the proposed gas hub precinct at James Price Point. Police are reportedly expected at Manari Road access (near Walmandan Tent Embassy), and Cape Leveque after between 140 to 250 police officers with riot gear arrived in Broome in the last several days.
Just in: 150 police officers amassed to escort Woodside workers and equipment to onsite works – Martin Pritchard said, “The WA Police public order response group were flown into Broome over the weekend under orders from the Premier, such is the massive opposition to the project.” – read the Environs Kimberley media release at the end of this article.
Mothers’ Day will not be forgotten in Broome – 600 protestors peacefully piled out the front of Broome Police Station after heavy handed police tactics with up to 250 extra police arriving in Broome to protect Woodside as they continue with geotechnical surveys and exploratory work at James Price Point.
Environs Kimberley and the Save the Kimberley campaigners, Walmandan Tent Embassy stalwarts and Human Rights Alliance activists gathered with many from within the Broome community to express their concern to police by peacefully protesting outside Broome Police station – and as it was Mothers’ Day each community member arrived with a rose or a flower to present police and with a prepared statement to express their concerns.
The size of the protest outside the police station had rarely before been seen in Broome or anywhere in the north-west.
The protestors had gathered at the Broome markets on Sunday morning and picked their flowers – many carried love shaped hearts, and placards calling for peace, civility and ‘love’.
Environs Kimberley’s Mitch Torres, and who organised the protest, told the burgeoning protest group, “We are here for a vigil, we are not shouting, we are coming to meet the police with love. This is a message from the mothers of Broome. We are concerned about the environment in which our children have to live in.”
In the approach to noon the protest group crossed the road from the Broome markets to the police station.
Broome police met Ms Torres and Broome’s Aboriginal councillor, deputy mayor Dr Anne Poelina and Dr Poelina handed the letter to Seargeant Troy Kendall who said he would forward it to police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan.
An excerpt from the later stated, “Last year, the police were used as a security service to escort Woodside workers and equipment onto a site to clear sensitive ecosystem habitat for which they did not have planning, environmental or heritage approval.”
“The police arrested Broome residents who were trying to prevent a private company from breaking the law.”
Protestor David Hartley said the heavy police presence was intended to muscle out anti-gas hub protestors and to stifle community dissent and that it was all Premier Colin Barnett’s doing and obviously so, Mr Hartley said, after Mr Barnett’s public insistence that the gas hub proposal should become a reality to the benefit of WA. “The Premier needs to learn that he should not abuse power and threaten the general public with his big statements that are not in line with how government should work. He needs to use power wisely and not abuse, and so too it goes with the police – they cannot continue on acting like the army of a dictator.”
“If I was a copper and I was told to shut down the right of people to dissent, to smash the public interest to know, to arrest civil protestors I would turn to my Officer-in-Charge and politely say ‘NO’.”
“We have known for a week that police were coming up here in huge numbers, and it was reported about 60 to 100 but what can we assume when 250 turn up?”
Protestors remained civil and intended with their show of numbers to express both their concern and outrage that any protestors at the Woodside site would be met with heavy handed police muscle if they dissented at James Price about the proposed gas hub. Most of the protestors were residents of Broome or the Kimberley. Many had come from Aboriginal communities – pooling in convoys.
Human Rights Alliance Indigenous spokesperson Natalie Flower said, “It has become the norm in WA for Mr Barnett to exercise his will with a militia-like police force to keep the peace as he sees it. He is continuing on from trying to smash Nyoongar Tent Embassy by effectively building a personal army of police. We need police in Perth, in communities to keep the streets safe but we do not need them, nor should it be lawful, in charging in like the army at Nyoongar Tent Embassy nor up here in Broome.”
“This is no different a mentality to John Howard and Julia Gillard with the NT Intervention, with marching in the army to destroy people’s lives and rights,” said Ms Flower.
Broome resident and Nyikina rights activist, Sofia Mirniyinna said that the civil protest action by community to the Broome police station was the exact opposite to police roughing up protestors last year – arresting more than 60 people – in trying to stop activists from blockading the access routes to work sites for Woodside contractors. “We always do it civilly and they, the police and the government, storm in like the apparatchik of wrong,” said Ms Mirniyinna.
An estimated 250 police arrived in Broome on Friday night and reportedly arriving with riot gear. The proposed James Price gas hub site is 60km north of Broome.
Broome residents said they were affronted by the presumption that police would move in to remove protestors already at the Woodside Petroleum site. Wednesday is the deadline for them to leave after move-on notices from Broome shire.
The shire is divided on the gas hub site proposal however it appears that more folk do not want it to occur than those that do and this includes councillors. Broome council has a majority (by one) of Aboriginal councillors and outspoken anti-gas hub campaigner Dr Poelina is one of them.
One Broome resident who did not wish to be identified said to AAP, “The community is feeling like they’re in lock-down here. We are expecting a showdown.”
He said to AAP that the heavy police presence in the normally quiet tourist town was “unprecedented since the Noonkanbah dispute”. There were clashes between police and protestors in the 1970s and 1980s near Fitzroy Crossing when oil company AMAX was granted approval to drill on an Aboriginal sacred site.
Nookanbah and James Price have parallels with government at odds with conservationists, residents and Aboriginal Elders. Mr Barnett has threatened compulsory acquisition, which lawfully he cannot do unless he circumvents Native Title, for the $35 billion LNG processing plant.
Mr Barnett has tried to claim that protestors at Walmandan Tent Embassy and at outside the Woodside Petroleum site are not predominately residents however professional activists. However Dr Poelina said Mr Barnett was wrong and most of the protestors, as was the case outside Broome Police Station, are permanent residents and well known locals who do not want the gas hub to destroy “their pristine environment and way of life.”
“We are the families of Broome residents, we are not professional protestors, and we are concerned about what is coming,” said Dr Poelina.
“This is intended as the biggest industrial precinct in the world and it will have an impact on the families and the environment.”
Mr Barnett said to news media he “regretted having to send the police up to Broome but the fact is that previous demonstrations have not been peaceful.”
“I respect the right for people to demonstrate peacefully but recent history in Broome has shown this not to be the case.”
The Sergeant-on-the-desk allowed for protestors to leave the flowers and roses at the front counter.
On Sunday, Kimberley District Superintendent Mick Sutherland said it had been a peaceful demonstration however defended the decision of the additional police officers to Broome.
He said to The West Australian, “It’s operational requirements that we have the police here. The planning is still underway… this is my operation. I applied for it, I have asked people to be here.”
In a surprising statement he claimed, “Everyone in WA wants more police – they’re happy with the crime rate in town are they? The bottom line is that is what we do – we remain committed to ensuring the safety of all people. We haven’t got anything to do with James Price Point. People have a lawful right to undertake activities anywhere on a public road.”
“If I make a decision to bring extra police in, I don’t consider what that is to the local community. If it’s about James Price Point, well go and talk to Woodside and the government, don’t talk to the police.”
His statement to news media was at odds with Mr Barnett’s comments and Broome residents however Broome residents and the rest of Australia now know exactly how and why the additional police officers were deployed.
MEDIA RELEASE from ENVIRONS KIMBERLEY
BROWSE GAS PROPOSAL SINKS TO NEW LOW
“More than 150 police were deployed at James Price Point this morning to escort Woodside equipment to the site of investigations for a gas hub.”
“The WA Police public order response group were flown into Broome over the weekend under orders from the Premier, such is the massive opposition to the project.”
“About 30 community members silently watched the police and Woodside contractors as they drove past an information bay on the corner of Manari Road about 25km from Broome.”
“The Premier obviously has huge concerns about the strength of opposition to this proposal in Broome. He’s obviously extremely desperate to avoid any protests and will go to any lengths including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money on sending riot police to Broome,” said Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard.
“This project’s viability has sunk to new lows and the companies involved like BHP, Shell, Chevron and Mitsubushi-Mitsui need to state if they condone this type of anti-community sentiment coming from the Premier,” Mr Pritchard.
“It’s also time for Woodside to make a decision on the viability of a gas hub in the Kimberley instead of leaving the Broome community hanging. Industry experts have stated it is $10 billion cheaper to pipe to the Pilbara, why ruin the Kimberley coast if that is the case?”.
Mob 0427 548 075
Fergus Reid, who claimed to have lived at the camp on traditional Aboriginal grounds for nearly a year, spotted a troop carrier with two police in it
With the increase of between 140 and 250 extra police in Broome for protection of Woodside as they continue to do destructive investigations at James Price Point, the Broome Community thought it a proper thing to present a letter of concern to the Police and as it was Mothers Day as well, each Community member presented the police a flower
WOODSIDE has reaffirmed its commitment to a proposed gas hub at James Price Point as the State Government asks for more time on the environment report
A vow by the West Australian premier to ensure the $30 billion Browse liquefied natural gas hub is built at James Price Point has been described as “soviet style interventionism” putting foreign investment at risk, by the state’s opposition
More than 600 people have gathered outside Broome police station in Western Australia’s Kimberley in a showdown with authorities over a proposed gas hub
“The community is feeling like they’re in lock-down here,” a Broome resident, who did not wish to be identified, told AAP today
As masses of police arrived in Broome this weekend, the town’s residents met them with flowers and expressions of love
The Premier says he will decide!
Premier Colin Barnett has fired a shot over the bow of the Browse joint venture partners, suggesting that he is prepared to use State Agreement Acts to ensure gas from the $30 billion-plus project is processed at his preferred greenfields site at James Price Point
No Gas Hub on Dampier
James Price Point, 40km north of Broome on one of the world’s most pristine coastlines, is the proposed site for the largest gas processing plant in the world. If approved, it would open up the floodgates to industrialisation on a scale never seen before in northern Australia
Kimberley Traditional Owners have had enough and have told the West Australian State Government to “back off” from threats to forcibly remove them from Walmandan Tent Embassy camp