Happy New Year from the Tunnel Picket!
|Defending the cornflakes against marauding picketers|
As I walked to our rallying point this morning, I was concerned that a 5.30am start might be a big ask for people still partly in holiday mode. But I needn't have worried. Yesterday's police violence, instead of discouraging people as the government had obviously hoped, had had the opposite effect. As I approached through the dark, a large crowd was already visible on the median strip at the corner of Alexandra Parade and Brunswick street.
|The scene at dawn|
The police were there too, their reflectors advertising their presence in the gloaming. Their job was to protect the drill site barricade, erected in the dead of night on Tuesday by the Linking Melbourne Authority - in breach of its own planning permit.
|It's obviously never too dark for sunglasses|
Unable to stop the drilling at the rig, instead we made our presence felt for an hour or so before marching to the second drill site in Reeves Street Clifton Hill. As we attempted to move onto the adjoining footpath after being directed off the road by police, two women were knocked to the ground by a policeman. He was reprimanded by a superior, but unfortunately the damage was already done.
|In the wake of the violent incident|
As we reassembled around the barricaded drill rig in Clifton Hill, a troop of heavy duty police, making their characteristic grunting, pumping-up noise, headed in our direction. They sounded so much like the All Blacks Rugby team performing their Haka that I kept expecting them to start poking their tongues out. Unfazed, we responded with our own chant: 'What do we want? Public Transport. When do we want it now? How are we going to get it? Fight for it!' The troop wheeled left into an adjoining lane-way, where they stayed for the duration.
Even some of the regular police were overheard being critical of these hard troops. And it's becoming increasingly clear that not all the police agree with the Napthine Government's assault on democracy. A motorcycle policeman this morning, warning a protestor to watch out for the traffic, said: 'I agree with what you doing, and I don't want to see you squished.' And even yesterday, before the violence, one of the police, standing in the sun, joked to a protestor in a sun hat: 'I wish I could swap your hat for mine,' to which she replied, not missing a beat: 'You can have my hat if you dismiss your men.'
|Thankfully, not needed this morning|
As the second rig was also barricaded, we were unable to stop work, so after an hour or so we returned to our original rallying point to de-brief.
Although we were unable to stop the drilling today, our continued presence is obviously slowing down the whole process, which is our objective. And the increasing numbers of protestors, support from passers-by and community realisation about the waste of public resources that this huge police presence represents, will surely ensure that the issue becomes an electoral one.
|Feeding the troops|
Drilling is scheduled at 14 more sites in Melbourne's north over coming weeks, so do join us tomorrow and beyond. It is gorgeous walking or cycling through these early summer mornings to stand with people who feel as strongly as you do. So come, and bring a friend - human or canine.
|You are very welcome!|