Bungled Unwarranted Police Stakeout Results in Premature Raid, Says Climate Arrestee Nick Weaver

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Blockage Australia

Last Sunday morning at around 8:30 am, two NSW police officers dressed in camouflage were surveilling a group of climate defenders from some bushes on a property in the town of Colo, northwest of Sydney, when they were spotted by some of those being surveilled.

On being approached by a few of young climate activists, the armed officers who bore no signs that they were police, refused to answer questions as to what they were doing on the property and who they were.

An unmarked car with two plainclothes police officers inside then drove onto the property in a dangerous manner and attempted to make a getaway with the camouflage pair but were foiled by the climate activists, who were gathered in support of Blockade Australia.

Soon after, a number of uniformed NSW police descended upon the property and detained about forty of the climate defenders in a cordoned area, while officers awaited more of their colleagues to turn up with a warrant, which would facilitate what was already taking place.

Supressing the truth

It’s been no secret that Blockade Australia is planning a week of nonviolent direct action in Sydney commencing on the 27 June 2022.

Indeed, the climate activist group has been advertising it since it pulled off two weeks of successful disruptions at the Newcastle Coal Port last November.

The activists involved aren’t conducting these demonstrations – which not only disrupt business as usual but further drastically disrupt their lives – because they have nothing better to do.

These activists are sending out a warning about the unfolding climate crisis.

Blockade Australia also carried out a series of successful disruptive actions at Sydney’s Port Botany in March, which was when the climate activist-focused Strike Force Guard was formed, and the Perrottet government rushed through the most draconian anti-protest laws in the land.

Seven activists were arrested on Sunday and charged with multiple crimes. Five have since been released on strict bail, while two have been refused it and remain in the lockup awaiting their day in court.

This remanding of climate defenders has become a judicial trend in NSW over the last 12 months.

Climate activists scare armed police

NSW police acting commissioner Paul Dunstan stated later on Sunday that “those police that were attacked by that group this morning feared for their lives”, which, as Blockade Australia has pointed out, is a bit rich considering they weren’t the ones packing guns.

According to the climate defenders, one young activist fled into the bush during the raid and disappeared until the evening. Yet, despite repeated pleas, the police refused to send out the NSW State Emergency Service to look for him and it prohibited the group from doing so as well.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Nick Weaver, a supporter of Blockade Australia, about his having spotted a man hiding in a bush dressed in camouflage, his being arrested and subsequently charged with assaulting police and the steep bail conditions that he’s now subject to.

Blockade Australia supporter and climate activist Nick Weaver
Blockade Australia supporter and climate activist Nick Weaver

Nick, as a supporter of Blockade Australia, you were present at the Colo property that was raided by Strike Force Guard and accompanying officers on 19 June. How would you describe what happened?

Initially, we were down in the valley, and someone noticed a little movement in a bush. They said, “Is that a human up there?” I had a look and thought that it was a human, and they were dressed in camo.

I called out to them and asked who they were, then I saw them drop back down into the bush. Three of us walked up there and discovered someone lying on the ground in camo.

I said, “Good morning, mate.” He stood up and said into his little microphone that he’d been compromised. I said, “Who are you.” But he refused to identify himself. And there was nothing else for him to be easily identified by.

Another person dressed in camo, about 15 metres away, then stood up as well. Again, they didn’t identify themselves either.

We all then walked down from the bush together, and within a couple of minutes, an unmarked car came into the camp at quite a high speed. It almost hit someone as it came through the kitchen area, where it did a U-turn.

The two people in camouflage, who still hadn’t identified themselves, ran to the car. We were under the presumption that these people were trespassers, as they hadn’t identified themselves.

They then attempted to get into the vehicle. But people stood in the way of it. The car then took off, hitting anywhere from four to six people, who hit the ground.

The car stopped after about 40 or 50 metres. Then some people put their finger into a tyre valve, letting the tyre down, so the car couldn’t drive anymore.

At this point, the driver, the front seat passenger and the two people in camouflage still hadn’t identified themselves.

Blockage Australia

What happened from there?

Not long after, more police rocked up. Within forty minutes there were about 45 riot cops there. And there were helicopters going over.

Okay. So, at first you weren’t aware the people in the bushes were police?

No. Not at all.  At no point did they identify themselves.

Did the people in the car leave before the main raid took place?

No. There were people standing in front of the car and behind it. Although, by the time the other police arrived, people had stepped away from the vehicle.

So, why were you and six others arrested?

Once the riot police arrived, they cordoned off the area where the car was, and corralled everyone into a small area around the fire and the kitchen.

The police got a warrant at around 10.30 am and one of the Strike Force Guard detectives then read it out. They said that before we execute the search, they would like to arrest three people on the charge of assaulting police.

They read out my name and the name of two others. The other two were never charged with that in the end.

But you’ve been charged with assaulting police?

Yes, and five other charges.

The full charges I received were assault police officer in execution of duty, intimidate police officer in execution of duty without causing actual bodily harm, affray, aid the commission of crimes, intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage property, and wilfully obstruct an officer in the execution of duty.

So, you’re out on bail. What’s next for you?

I’m on some strict court bail. I have to reside at an address and report to the closest police station once a week. I’m not allowed to associate with my community, which is 15 people they suspect are also supporters of Blockade Australia.

Also, I’m not allowed to enter the Sydney CBD. So, the bail conditions are movement restrictive.

Why do you think this happened on Sunday?

The police were gathering intel to then raid the property just before the mobilisation that has been advertised. We sprung them early, and they’ve made a mess in mopping up what they could.

But we sprung them a bit early, and they had to act sooner than what they’d intended.

Blockage Australia

So, the raid was going to happen but at a later date?

Yes. There was also a new report that said police were set to raid in two days’ time.

What about the legalities of the police actions?

As far as we were aware, they didn’t have a warrant to execute the surveillance they were doing. They were trespassing on private property. And they didn’t identify themselves as police officers.

For all we knew, they were trespassers, potentially an opposing group or hunters. We had no idea.

Is this part of a general trend in the way that NSW police are treating climate defenders?

Absolutely. There has been a significant step up in the repression the state has had on climate activists.

And lastly, Nick, Blockade announced back in November that it was undertaking a week of nonviolent climate actions in Sydney during the week commencing the 27th of June, which is next week.

Do you know whether the week of protests is still going ahead?

Yes. I believe it will be going ahead. Lawful protests will be conducted next week. Blockade Australia is committed to disrupting the economic centre of the continent.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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