Police were forced to close down Lonsdale Street in Braddon last night after multiple reports that an unregulated car cruise involving burnouts, dangerous driving and antisocial behaviour was creating a public safety issue.
At a second unregulated event in Fyshwick later in the evening, officers faced verbal abuse and a police car window was smashed when a bottle was thrown. NSW Police are also investigating a further gathering at Eaglehawk on the Federal Highway, the site of a violent incident last year.
Lonsdale St was not part of the route for the community organised ‘Claytons Cruise’ that replaced the cancelled Summernats event, which traversed Northbourne Avenue from the Watson roundabout and across the bridge to Parliament House. Participants on the organised cruise were identifiable by yellow stickers and worked with ACT Policing to organise the event.
Police said they responded to calls for assistance from the public and shut Lonsdale St at about 7:50 pm, opening it again around three hours later.
However, shortly afterwards, they were called to the corner of Yallourn St and Canberra Avenue in Fyshwick, where it’s alleged a large number of cars were being driven dangerously.
“Police attended and parked their vehicle 100 metres away from the spectators. The police vehicle was quickly surrounded by spectators who threw items and verbally abused the officers.
“Police activated their lights and sirens and the crowd parted and the drivers dispersed. A spectator threw a bottle and smashed the rear window of the marked police vehicle,” a statement from police said.
NSW Police said they received reports that road access was being blocked at Eaglehawk by cars doing burnouts, travelling at high speed and blocking traffic. There are reports of more than 60 cars at the scene but police said they dispersed quickly. CCTV footage is now being reviewed to identify any drivers committing traffic offences.
At the same time last year, police were forced to retreat over the flyover when confronted by more than 500 vehicles and 2000 people at Eaglehawk, who threw rocks and bottles. A NSW police officer was injured and two police cars were damaged in the incident. Summernats organiser Andy Lopez distanced himself from the melee last year, although footage showed some participants wearing Summernats wristbands.
Yesterday, senior members of the Canberra car enthusiast community expressed their frustration with negativity surrounding the event and bad behaviour from people on the fringes of the community. Mark Saunders, who is Vice President of the Council of ACT Motor Clubs characterised the trouble makers as “people on the periphery” who were unlikely to be members of local car clubs.
“Most people in the car community have recognised that Summernats couldn’t proceed and we’ve been focussed on supporting others events where possible. The ACT Street Machine Association is active every month and we run a few small events like my hot rod club runs and the rod and custom cruise on Australia Day.
“Most people are very sensible and just want to enjoy time with their friends in the community,” he said.
ACT Policing co-operated extensively with the organisers of the Claytons Cruises and Andrew Dale told yesterday’s crowd at Southwell Park that relationships with police and Transport Canberra and City Services had been excellent in the lead-up to the event.
“We liaised with police and roads [TCCS], and the police sent me a message last night saying yesterday was bloody brilliant, so thank you all very much,” he said.
“I’ve had [Detective Inspector] Marcus Boorman and the people from TCCS on 24-hour speed dial and they could not have been more helpful in making this happen.”
No arrests have been made so far in relation to last night’s incidents