Melbourne police clash with East West Link protesters

ABC: Melbourne police clash with East West Link protesters. Updated Tue 17 Dec 2013, 4:15pm AEDT

VIDEO: Protesters clash with police over East West Link development (ABC News)

PHOTO: Dozens of police clashed with the protesters as they tried to clear the test drilling site. (ABC News)

The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has condemned the actions of protesters who clashed with police at the East West Link road work site this morning.

The demonstrators blocked a test drilling site for the controversial road project in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

About 50 protesters linked arms to keep workers away from the site chanting “no tunnel, no way, we’re going to fight this all the way.”

Police initially tried to appeal to the protesters to move through a loud speaker.

Then they massed at one end of the line of protesters and moved in, roughly tearing them away from the line and dragging them off.

Some of the protesters yelled “stop you’re hurting people.”

Several officers were knocked to the ground in the scuffles and some protesters were led away in tears.

Others chanted “this is a peaceful protest.”

In response, police officers chanted “move, move.”

Dr Napthine says while everyone has the right to protest that does not mean people can disrupt others.

“They have absolutely no right, no right to stop other people going about their lawful business and they have absolutely no right to abuse and denigrate people who are working on this important project,” he said.

“That is absolutely uncalled for, unacceptable, and appalling behaviour and the people involved should be embarrassed and ashamed.”

Protester Rosie stands on top of drilling rig with East West Link protesters
PHOTO: Protester Rosie jumped a fence and stood on top of the drilling equipment as the protest resumed. (ABC News: Gloria Kalache)
Order has now been restored but about 150 protestors remain with arms linked at the site.

A woman has managed to climb on top of the drilling equipment.

One protester, Brendan, was held to the ground by police and has been charged with assaulting a police officer.

Police deny heavy-handed tactics

Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Rick Nugent has denied claims that police were heavy-handed.

“I’m not aware of any accusations of heavy-handed tactics,” he said.

“Clearly (if) someone has a concern with that, there’s an appropriate complaint process that we can undertake.

“We’re about preserving the peace and ensuring that the companies can get on with doing the work that they want to do.”

Peter Anderson, lives in Westgarth Street, says residents were never told their street would be closed to make way for the drilling equipment.

“There had been no information provided to residents and I thought it was a pretty sneaky tactic,” he said.

“I think it’s really unfortunate that we’ve hit a point where the police are being used politically and I think it’s a really bad state of affairs.”

It is the second day protesters massed at the corner of Brunswick and Westgarth Streets.

They blocked cars and trams causing traffic chaos.

Just last week police set up a special unit set up a special incident management team to respond to the East West Link protests.

The East West link is an 18 kilometre cross-city road and tunnel project that will link the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road.

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