TWO middle-aged women protesting Santos’s coal seam gas exploration activities in the Pilliga forest have accused police of using excessive force.
Cherie Robinson and Katherine Marchment claim officers from the Barwon Local Area Command went “over the top” with their pain compliance tactics.
Yesterday morning the women linked arms and sat in the middle of a dirt road to prevent a truck transporting coal seam gas drilling equipment from passing.
When the women refused to comply with a directive to move, two police officers attempted to physically separate the duo.
Footage shot by a protester shows the officers twisting the women’s arms in an attempt to wrench them apart.
Once free, Ms Marchment is then dragged by her arms on her back for a number of metres along the dirt road.
The camera pans back to Mrs Robinson, a dry-land farmer from a property between the Pilliga and Coonamble, and shows the officer again twisting her arm behind her back until she finally stands up.
A police officer, who had earlier told the protesters to “put down your cameras and leave”, then approaches the cameraman and says “Sir, do you want to be arrested?” before the filming stops.
“It was really, really painful,” Mrs Robinson, who was participating in her first direct action protest, said.
“I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t have stood up he would have done some damage, because he was really forceful and twisted my wrist one way and my arm the other way.
“He was pinching me, trying to get me to let go of Katherine. I wasn’t complying, but I wasn’t pushing him away or touching him one bit.
“It was really over the top, I think – I’m only little.”
When The Leader asked NSW Police if it considered the actions of the officers acceptable, a spokesman said: “Based on the edited footage provided, NSW Police cannot comment on the full circumstances surrounding the incident.”
A Santos spokeswoman said the company had approval for the work under way in the Pilliga forest and was committed to carrying out this work in a “safe and timely manner”.
Mrs Robinson and Ms Marchment, of Victoria, were charged with offences under the Forestry Act and bailed to appear in Narrabri Local Court on March 25.