Yesterday, Tone Deaf reported on a case of alleged police overreach which saw a launch party for the annual Rabbits Eat Lettuce Festival shut down by police from the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command and New England Local Area Command, who acted over “concerns of illicit drug use”, but found no drugs at the event.
But it now appears that this wasn’t the full story and that it wasn’t just the police acting in a reactionary manner. According to a recent report in The Queensland Times, in their bid to ensure the Rabbits Eat Lettuce launch party never got off the ground, council attempted to stop a party that was never going to happen.
According to an earlier report, the festival’s 24-hour “launch party”, which occurred over the past weekend, was set to go down at 500 Fridays Creek Rd in Upper Orara, about 17km from the Coffs Harbour CBD. However, once notified, Coffs Harbour City Council applied to the NSW Land and Environment Court to stop organisers throwing the party.
Justice Terence Sheahan ordered organisers Erik Michael Lamir-Pike and Shane Michael Lowe not to hold the festival at the Upper Orara site. “The respondents are known to council and to the local police, from their earlier dance party ventures, which generated many problems and complaints,” he said.
Now the organisers are accusing Coffs Harbour City Council of wasting ratepayers’ money, because, they allege, the pre-festival launch party was never going to happen at that location. “The event on the weekend has never been advertised as being in Coffs Harbour Shire,” they said in a statement.
“The event on the weekend is our launch party for our festival (on the Easter long weekend),” they added. “We notified the lawyers representing Coffs Harbour Shire that the event is not taking place at the Friday Creek venue in Coffs Harbour Shire, however they did not listen and wasted ratepayer money to file an injunction at the Land and Environment Court.”
Following Saturday’s raid on the festival launch party at Ebor, just over 100 kilometres west of Coffs Harbour, organisers said police had unfairly targeted them due to a “personal vendetta”, telling APN News & Media via the Daily Mercury, “The police did not find any drugs at the event and made zero arrests despite searching people’s camp sites with sniffer dogs.”
One arrest was made in fact, police arrested a 47-year-old man for trespassing after allegedly ignoring police orders to leave the site. “So hardly a ‘drug-fuelled’ event,” organisers continued. “Our events are focused around music and art.” The organisers also criticised police contacting the party venue’s owners.
“We spoke with the landowners at Ebor (who have rented the property to us over five times in the past for events), and they told us eight police officers were at their house for one and a half hours intimidating and threatening them,” organisers allege. “These people are very nice elderly people (in their 80s) and were extremely shaken up by the bully tactics of the police.”
This contradicts the events detailed in a NSW Police media release, which claimed that the land owners revoked organisers’ permission to hold the party on their property after speaking with police, who informed them that the purpose of hiring the property was to host a large-scale commercial activity. See footage of Saturday’s raid below.