Police “monitored the behaviour” of people on a Lock the Gate bus tour for hours on February 3 and 4 after deciding it was a “protest group”, and despite Lock the Gate publicising the event as a chance for Sydney and Newcastle supporters to meet mining-affected communities over meals at Bulga, Camberwell, Muswellbrook, Wollar and Bylong.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties vice president Pauline Wright, Greens Justice spokesman and barrister David Shoebridge, Environmental Justice Australia spokesman James Whelan and Lock the Gate said the police presence raised disturbing questions about how authorities viewed areas reduced to little more than heavy industrial mining districts, where the few remaining residents are seen as potential troublemakers for speaking out.
The Lock the Gate bus monitoring raises “pretty intense civil liberties issues”, said Ms Wright, after confirming that promotional material on the group’s website made no mention of protests and concentrated on Hunter areas where expanding mines threaten small communities.
“I believe unless there is a reasonable cause for suspicion that a crime is about to be committed, people should not be under active surveillance by police. It seems to me a guided tour shouldn’t arouse that suspicion of criminal activity,” she said.
“Police will say they were monitoring protesters but I don’t know that that’s a reasonable suspicion. If a tour is a tour and not a possible protest then people should be free to tour.”
Source: Newcastle Herald