Words and pictures by Andy Hazel
Around one hundred anti-East West Link protesters and a similar number of police clashed outside Regent Theatre in Collins Street tonight as part of a coordinated action against a state Liberal Party fundraising dinner.
Despite open communication between organisers and police before the protest began, three protesters were arrested and several police were accused of assault by protesters.
Protesters linked arms to block the entrance to the Regent Theatre, requiring police to forcibly break through the human chain to allow the parliamentarians and their guests to enter.
Surprised theatregoers on their way to see the musical Wicked were escorted around the picketers by theatre staff.
Protest organiser Mr Anthony Main claimed the policing had been overzealous. “I think the problem has been that we’ve had a hundred or more coppers here tonight pushing and shoving people around at what was intended to be a peaceful protest,” he said.
The police present refused to comment on operations, but maintained their presence was for safety reasons.
Several protesters, including organiser Ms Kat Galea and freelance photojournalist Mr Aaron Clarringbold, were among those arrested and questioned. Mr Clarringbold was later charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
Tonight’s protest is the latest in a series of anti-East West Link actions. Last week several dozen protesters gathered outside Brunswick Labor MP Jane Garrett’s office in an effort to pressure Labor to back down from its policy of honouring contracts signed with the current government before the state election.
Protesters expected the $10,000 a table event to be attended by key lobbyists involved in building the East West Link project.
There have also been anti East West Link pickets in Fitzroy that disrupted test-drilling sites.
Despite the altercations, Mr Main described the protest as a success and said more pickets and demonstrations could be expected.
– with MS