Three charged after anti-East West Link protesters clash with police

Herald Sun: Three charged after anti-East West Link protesters clash with police. Samantha Landy. 28 August 2014

UPDATE: THREE anti-East West Link protesters have been charged with assaulting police after demonstrators clashed with officers at a Liberal Party fundraiser in the Melbourne CBD.

Startled guests attending the function at the Regent Theatre Plaza on Collins St — among them Coalition MPs — had to be pushed through a crowd of about 50 demonstrators by police and security guards, as protesters linked arms to prevent them entering.

Police — just outnumbering the vocal protesters — formed a guard between the demonstrators and the venue about 6pm.

A series of scuffles ensued as police pushed protesters forward to make paths for frightened-looking guests to get inside.

A large police presence met protesters. Picture: Samantha Landy

Victoria Police spokeswoman Belinda Batty said three protesters — two men and a woman — had been arrested over the dramatic protest.

“All three have been charged with assaulting police and have been released pending summons,” Ms Batty said.

Serial protester Katherine Galea was taken away in handcuffs by police and put in a van about 6.30pm.

She was released soon after, but then arrested a second time just after 7pm.

Protest at Liberal party fundraiser Regent Plaza Melbourne. Picture: Samnatha Landy

“You were warned, Kat,” a policeman said as he led her away.

Two men were also handcuffed and led away from the protest.

Among the guests forced to push their way into the function were Transport Minister Terry Mulder and Health Minister David Davis

Both were jostled by protesters.

Premier Denis Napthine was due to attend the fundraiser, but was believed to have entered through a back door.

EAST/WEST Link protestors blockading the Victorian premier’s infrastructure dinner at the Regent Theatre. David Davis arriving at the Regent Theatre. Picture: Richard Serong

Members of the public arriving at the Regent Theatre for a showing of hit musical Wicked also had to make their way past the protest.

“We’re not surprised the Premier had to sneak in the back door because obviously he’s trying to hide what’s going on here,” protest leader Anthony Main said.

“He’s trying to hide the fact that he’s making an appeal to the big business elite to fill the coffers of his party with a wink and a nod that they are gonna be given contracts for this East West Link, contracts for a project that no one has seen the business for, a project that’s dodgy from top to bottom.”

Mr Main said protesters intended for tonight’s picket to be “peaceful”.

“We had a hundred or more coppers here tonight pushing and shoving people around,” he said.

He dubbed the protest a success, saying it drew attention to the “$10,000 a table” fundraiser.

“We’ve got a situation where the government’s making an appeal to big business to fill their coffers in the lead-up to the election,” he said.

“This is the road lobby, the oil lobby, the big transport firms who are here tonight. … These are the people who are gonna benefit from the East West Link, not commuters who are gonna be paying exorbitant tolls, not the local communities, not the environment, nothing else.

“I think that investors are getting the message.”

Protesters began to gather outside the fundraiser just before 6pm, clutching signs reading “the Liberal Party Mafia” and “billions wasted on Napthine’s tunnel vision”.

“We’re not here to cause trouble,” Mr Main said over a megaphone.

“(We’re here) to let people know as they’re leaving work … what’s going on behind closed doors.”

The protesters and police started to clash as guests began to arrive for the fundraiser from about 6.30pm.

Mr Main urged the protesters to “stand (their) ground” and “stay in a disciplined formation” as police pushed them from behind to allow people inside.

He later pledged that the protests against the $8 billion road project would continue through to the November 29 state election.

“Any further preliminary works that this government wants to do, they’ll be picketed,” he said.

“We’re gonna be targeting Labor Party MPs, … government MPs and also big business targets as well.

“Anyone who wants to get involved in this project can consider themselves a target for protest in the future.”

Protesters outside the fundraiser. Picture: Samantha Landy

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