Lives at risk as protesters cause traffic chaos in East West Link tussle

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Herald Sun: Lives at risk as protesters cause traffic chaos in East West Link tussle. Christopher Gillett, Jonno Nash, Tom Minear, Alex White. 10 January 2014

Police remove East West Link protesters trying to stop a construction truck from leaving the site on the corner of Alexandra Pde and Charlotte St, Collingwood. Source: News Limited

Protesters regrouped this morning at an East West Link test drilling site in Fitzroy following a heated confrontation with police yesterday afternoon.

Police are monitoring more than 60 protesters, including children, at the site on Alexandra Parade.

More than 20 activists have surrounded a water truck at the site to try and stop workers from moving equipment to another site.

Workers, who earlier entered the site without incident, haven’t confirmed that they are moving.

The early morning rally follows protesters risking the lives of motorists when they ran into peak-hour traffic yesterday.

More than 20 activists formed a human chain across Alexandra Parade in Collingwood causing chaos as officers struggled to control the mob.

Cars were forced to swerve on the 60km/h four lane road and Acting Superintendent Bernie Edwards said police would review evidence of the incident with a view to prosecuting “any person for relevant offences”.

Police remove East West Link protesters trying to stop a construction truck from leaving on the corner of Alexandra Pde and Charlotte St, Collingwood. Source: News Limited
Traffic was stopped as scores of police including the Public Order Response team battled to remove protesters.

The Herald Sun witnessed one female activist trying to bite a male officer, who yelled “don’t bite me, don’t bite me”.

Police remove East West Link protesters trying to stop a construction truck from leaving on the corner of Alexandra Pde and Charlotte St, Collingwood. Source: News Limited
One of the protest leaders, Anthony Main, was handcuffed and placed inside a police van for about 30 minutes after the violence escalated.

He defended the clashes, saying a drill site was being set up with no notice to residents.

“The police can be heavy handed, they are much more well behaved when the cameras a rolling, he said today.

“We don’t consider any lives have been in danger because of this dispute.

“When they set up a drilling site, we are going to try and hinder them steering it up. We are going to try and delay the whole process.”

Acting Supt Edwards said a 37-year-old man was expected to be charged on summons with obstructing a roadway.

Police remove East West Link protesters trying to stop a construction truck from leaving the site on the corner of Alexandra Pde and Charlotte St, Collingwood. Source: News Limited
He said protesters had caused “significant safety risks to drivers, themselves and police”.

“Police respect the right of all people to protest peacefully. Protesters who break the law can expect to be prosecuted,” he said.

“We again ask these people to protest peacefully and respect the rights of the public to go about their business.”

Earlier in the day, police were forced to close parts of Alexandra Parade in Fitzroy when about 70 protesters marched along the busy road towards another test drilling site in Reeves St in Clifton Hill.

A scuffle broke out when police attempted to redirect the protesters, comprising mostly students and seniors, back onto the footpath.

Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the final round of drilling on the $6 billion-$8 billion tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway to CityLink would be finished by January, and could save taxpayers tens of millions in construction costs.

Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly said the cost of the project could be better spent improving Victoria’s public transport system.

“If we build this tunnel there will be no money left over for other communities in Victoria for the transport and train projects they need,” Cr Jolly said.

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