21 July, 2012

Star-picket attack on anti-logging campers

Deborah Gough
The Age, July 21, 2012 - 3:22PM

A camp of anti-logging protesters in a state forest near Healesville say they were terrorised by "thugs" who attacked them in the early hours of this morning.

MyEnvironment spokeswoman Sarah Rees said up to 10 men ambushed the two-men camp at Toolangi State Forest, at Mt St Leonard, at 2.30am.

The attackers shone car headlights into the faces of the protesters, John Flynn and Andy Lincoln, and menaced them with star pickets and a large car jack.

Mr Flynn, 60, came out of the tent first and was knocked to the ground with his throat compressed. Mr Lincoln, 25, then emerged from the tent and tried to photograph the attackers but instead had his camera equipment stolen.

The thugs wrestled with both men and the camp and a car was smashed up. Both men were taken to a medical clinic for treatment with "wrestling" injuries.

A star-picket was used to smash the windscreen and passenger window of the protester's truck.
The protest was set up to stop clear-felling in habitat used by the Victoria's faunal emblem, the Leadbeater's possum.

An Australian National University study estimated that the possum's numbers were cut by half by the nearby Black Saturday bushfires.

Ms Rees said tensions had been simmering between conservationists and loggers for months. She said a Facebook page, set up by supporters of the timber industry, was "stimulating violence".

MyEnvironment sought an injunction against the state-owned timber business, VicForests, to stop it clearfelling in the Toolangi State Forest.

It lost its case in the Supreme Court in March but yesterday the group lodged a Court of Appeal challenge to the decision.

"We are calling for a full investigation into who (attacked the campers) and what links they might have with the timber industry and individuals higher up in the logging industry," Ms Rees said.

A Victoria Police media spokesman Marty Beveridge confirmed Yarra Ranges CIU detectives were investigating the incident at the camp where it is alleged that damage was done to a vehicle and property stolen.

State government spokesman Michael Moore said he was unaware of the incident that although ''sounded serious'', was a matter for police.

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