Four people were arrested for illegally camping at the Cotter Campground last night as protestors from the ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’ seek new camping locations across the ACT and beyond.
This brings the number of arrests made to seven after three were arrested yesterday when police evicted close to 1000 campers from the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) after their booking expired on Sunday.
ACT Policing Commander of Operations Linda Champion said in a radio interview this morning that protestors are encouraged to use lawful campsites for available spots only, not overflow areas, but acknowledged that there may not be enough of these for those wanting to remain in the ACT.
“We need to have a common-sense approach to this. If they’re out in parkland or near a school or in an obvious place they shouldn’t be, give us a call,” she told ABC Radio Canberra.
“If it’s someone in your street and you don’t think it’s related to the residents in your street, give us a call and we can check them out.”
Commander Champion said the eviction went according to plan and “most protestors moved on peacefully after being given direction from police”.
“We are very aware of the events around the world at the moment, so we had the right resources in place.”
She said that as a whole, the protest was “well-behaved”.
“There were some people there with real, genuine concerns and they conducted themselves lawfully, and that’s what we want in protestors. There were a few who did take up a lot of our resources to manage, and they’re the ones we will continue to focus on.”
ACT Policing drew on additional resources from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to help manage the surge and ensure all operations were given equal attention.
Meanwhile, clean up around the National Triangle commenced yesterday, and National Capital Authority CEO Sally Barnes told ABC Radio Canberra that you wouldn’t have known the protestors had even been there.
“People were really quite well behaved and they took their litter with them. We’ve cleaned up, but it wasn’t nearly as drastic as we thought.
“I think what we need to keep in mind is that Canberra was designed for protests. The large open spaces are designed for quite a lot of foot traffic so you don’t get a lot of damage to that. The grass is actually chosen so it can take crowds.”
Commonwealth Park had 10,000 people gathered before the group headed off across the bridge, culminating on the lawns of Parliament House and overflowing to surrounding lawns and car parks.
“Nothing was trampled, nothing was grotty,” Ms Barnes said.
“There is a little bit of graffiti, but that happens off and on. People used chalk when they wanted to draw on the footpath so we’re able to just wash that off.”
The NCA asked ACT Policing to move protestors on from the lawns around the National Library of Australia during the first week not only due to the fact they had never been granted a permit to camp, but there were also health concerns. Two portable toilets were insufficient to service the whole campsite.
Ms Barnes said the clean-up crews didn’t uncover any nasty surprises.
She said that if approached by protest organisers, the NCA can make sure appropriate facilities are in place.
“Generally, we talk to people who are organising this sort of thing, not to be heavy-handed, but just to ask, what will you need? Where will you put it? Where do you put it so it doesn’t damage the infrastructure? This was a very unusual protest. As the police have said again and again, there are a variety of groups, and trying to get an organiser is difficult.”
NCA received an application last Thursday from an annual Bible-reading group who wanted to install a shade tent.
“That’s the sort of thing if you talk to us, we can work with you.”
Illegal campers can be reported through 131 444 or Crime Stoppers.