Lilli Barto, a physics student, locked onto a concrete barrel. Photo Front Line Action on Coal
Lilli Barto, a physics student, locked onto a concrete barrel. Photo Front Line Action on Coal

‘Arrogant’ activists block railway line

POLICE had to use a jackhammer to break up a cement-filled drum coal activists attached themselves to on a rail line at Bowen on Tuesday.

Frontline Action on Coal activists, whom the organisation named as Natan Shlomo, 24, and Lilli Barto, 24, both from NSW, were charged with trespass, interference with a rail structure and obstructing police. They will also be charged with placing an object in the path of a train.

Mackay Police District Inspector Steve O'Connell said the pair refused to release themselves from the drum.

"We used a jackhammer while they were still connected," he said. "It made it a very slow process because we had to be very careful we didn't injure them. Halfway through the process the male self-released but the female didn't."

Police have now arrested 45 activists since protests in Bowen in September, when more than 100 people gathered.

Of those 45, Insp O'Connell said about 75 per cent were from the southeast corner and interstate with two-thirds had yet to have their court dates.

There have also been 138 move-on directions and 23 infringement notices issued.

"It's an arrogant attitude from them to force the police to do that (jackhammer). That's not peaceful," he said. "It's not our normal job to be jackhammering people out of places.

"This is an escalation … it's absolutely the most dangerous they had done so far.

"Mixed with the cement was shrapnel like metal and pipes, I don't know what the intention was … but when you're jackhammering into that, it could have caused things to fly off."

More activists are expected to arrive in Bowen from this weekend but police are not expecting numbers as high as September's event.

The Bulletin understands activists will be staying on land along Normanby Rd, southwest of the beachside town.

"At the moment we're dealing with local resources even though it's a very big drain," Insp O'Connell said.

"It (protests) draws us away from more important issues like crime.

"If things escalate, we'll tap into other resources from Mackay and further afield from Rockhampton and Brisbane. There is a risk in a delayed response time."

FLAC did not answer questions about the protest.



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