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Issue #1762      January 25, 2017

Union veterans’ WestConnex protest

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) veterans bore the brunt of the NSW government’s bulldozer approach to decision making when they took a stand against its controversial WestConnex project.

MUA veterans, some aged in their 80s, were forcibly removed by police from Sydney Park in St Peters, where protestors are trying to stop the removal of more than 800 trees to make way for the motorway.

“If this is the way the Baird government deals with peaceful protest – have a pensioner aged over 80 skull-dragged across the ground – then the people of NSW are in serious trouble,” Joe Deakin, MUA Sydney Branch assistant secretary said.

“Officers were driving their knees into people’s faces, bending people’s wrists back and as a result of this, both of my wrists are extremely sore and swollen,” he said.

MUA Sydney Branch deputy secretary Paul Keating suffered bruising to his face when he was dragged from the site. The MUA senior officials joined around a dozen MUA youth and veterans members, who went down to support the local community fighting to stop the destruction of vital public spaces.

“WestConnex is symptomatic of the Baird government disregarding the interests of ordinary people to benefit large corporations and developers,” Mr Keating said. “It was important that we go down to show our support because we know that real change comes when the community stands up and fights for what it believes in.

“All communities have the right to public space so they can flourish, yet we see again and again the rich and powerful don’t care about communities.”

Protestors, led by the WestConnex Action Group, set up camp in the park four months ago in a bid to save it from being turned into a road interchange.

“Our democracy protects our right to protest peacefully,” Mr Keating said.

“The Baird government needs to be held accountable for today’s needless brutality, particularly against the elderly.”

Next article – Vital legal aid lost

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