Protesters provoke road breach
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the publication of this article, police have confirmed that despite the initial reports, protesters did not throw rocks at drivers. For more updated information, see this article.
SCOTT Sledge, the face of protest group No Rally, will face Murwillumbah Local Court next month charged with allegedly vandalising road signs with anti-rally slogans.
Tweed Police are also investigating claims the driver of a purple car dumped the carcasses of a possum, rabbit and cat in Clothiers Creek Road, at Clothiers Creek, in the early hours of Monday morning after the Repco Rally Australia wound down on Sunday night.
They want to speak with two men photographed at the time when rocks and boulders were left on the rally track at Byrrill Creek on Friday, forcing rally organisers to cancel the stage.
Police are also investigating a 'go-slow' protest that one senior officer described as provocative and a nuisance. Protesters purposely drove their cars at a crawl's pace on a transport stage, provoking rally drivers into overtaking them on double white lines.
Sledge, 61, of Lillian Rock, near Nimbin, was charged on September 3 with the intentional or reckless destroy or damage of property and will answer the charges on October 7, a clerk of the Murwillumbah court confirmed yesterday.
“One protester was charged with malicious damage for spray painting anti-rally slogans on Kyogle Road and every other sign along 10km of the Kyogle Road,” said Superintendent Michael Kenny, of the Tweed Byron Local Area Command.
“Vandalising the speed signs and other signs that let people know about the road conditions ahead is not only inappropriate and illegal behaviour, it could create a dangerous situation.
“I call on the public to come forward with any information about this or other incidents during the rally.”
Police are also investigating claims rocks were thrown at rally cars driving on bitumen public roads by protesters on Sunday, smashing the rear window of one of the World Rally Championship vehicles.
Claims about up to “a dozen” protestors laying on the rally tracks at different locations and times from September 3 to 6 are also being investigated by police, Supt Kenny said.
Meanwhile, Repco Rally Australia has passed on to police an image of two men taken by a race marshal when boulders and logs were left on the road and rocks thrown at safety cars afternoon at Byrrill Creek, which forced organisers to cancel the stage.
Chairman of the organising committee for Repco Rally Australia, Garry Connelly, said not only were logs and boulders placed on the track, they were replaced after being removed by race marshals.
“When the double zero car (safety car) came through an activist jumped out in front of it,” said Mr Connelly.
“Throwing rocks and leaving boulders on the road in the middle of a high-speed stage is extremely dangerous and I don't think you could get any bigger than that if something had gone wrong.
“If one of the cars had hit the boulders at speed, who knows what would have happened. It could have not only injured the drivers, but could have bounced off and hit officials, spectators or even the protesters.”
But Mr Connelly welcomed the “peaceful and lawful protests” against the rally held last weekend.
“We see that there are to very different elements involved in the protests around the rally,” he said.
“There are the lawful and peaceful protestors that have a right to voice their opposition to the rally, and then there is a small rogue element of activists who are making trouble for everybody.”
Claims of rock throwing were rejected by Sledge when he contacted The Tweed Daily News yesterday.
“We have allegations of dangerous actions by protesters that have reached a crescendo and now amount to vilification,” he said, adding protesters were harassed by pro-rally supporters.
“There have been no reports of frozen road kill left on the track, and there is no evidence whatsoever of rocks being thrown at the rally cars.
“Our bottom line is that we make sure no-one gets hurt.”
Anyone with information should contact Tweed Heads Police on 5536 0999.