Council land protest - 'This is going to go bad Bernard...'
WITNESSES told Gympie District court yesterday of tense and violent moments after Aboriginal land rights activists allegedly forced their way into Gympie Regional Council's Mary St offices.
Gympie District Court heard evidence from police, council employees and tradesmen about the dramatic situation which they found at the council premises on May 31, 2016.
Electrician Michael Buckley told the court the melee in the council's call centre office "sounded like a movie” with raised voices.
When he saw inside the room people were "in each other's faces and yelling”. Mayor Mick Curran seemed "pretty calm in view of what was going on,” Mr Buckley said.
Before the court are activists Wit-boooka (charged as Gary Tomlinson, of Southside), Djaa 'mee Gular Djan du Kabo (Mervyn James Tomlinson, of Bundaberg) and Djaki Widjung (Diane Patricia Redden-King, of Curra).
The three face charges including forcible entry to cause alarm, assault and assault with bodily harm.
Mr Buckley said council CEO Bernard Smith seemed to be trying to keep people away from each other.
Cr Curran and Wit-boooka ended up wrestling across a desk as the police arrived, he said.
Fellow electrician Stephen Jolly said he and Mr Buckley had tried to help after being invited to by Cr Curran.
Online communications officer Stephen Wernicke said he did not stay long in the call centre because there were already too many people there "milling about”.
Council governance manager Brian Hayes said a scuffle developed. "It was quite intense,” he said.
"The lady (Redden-King) was not involved to my recollection,” he said.
Constable Scott Walker was District Court orderly and on a lunch break when he and a partner were called to the council office to deal with the situation.
He saw Wit-boooka "with blood on his face”.
"He appeared very aggressive,” the police officer said.
Mervyn Tomlinson seemed to be trying to get in the way, he said.
Then council safety officer Leslie Latemore heard the commotion and initially interpreted it as "a union representative telling people to get out.
"But staff were ashen faced and I realised something serious was happening,” he said.
He remembered seeing Mr Smith and saying, "This is going to go bad Bernard, better call the police.
"So he went off to tell staff to call the police and they already had. I came back seconds later and Mick Curran was on a table and Wit-boooka was on top of him.”
The case continues today.