TWO protesters against the Australian Army defence games at Shoalwater Bay yesterday argued they had a right to block army vehicles because they were trying to stop “war crimes”.
James Joseph Dowling and Kieran Joseph O’Reilly pleaded not guilty in Rockhampton Magistrates Court to contravening a police order after they refused to move off a road at the entrance of Shoalwater Bay, north of Rockhampton.
On July 9, Dowling and O’Reilly were part of a group of protestors who took their anti-war campaign to Raspberry Creek Road a few minutes north of Rockhampton.
They held a sign that read, “In the name of God, stop the wars” and stood in the middle of the road at the entrance of Shoalwater Bay.
About five cargo trucks for the US Military turned off the Bruce Highway onto Raspberry Creek Road and were stopped in their tracks by the protestors, who had started reading aloud the names of soldiers and civilians killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Senior Sergeant Murray Shields was called to the blockade and spoke to one of the protestors who had already moved off the road.
Then he spoke to O’Reilly and Dowling, who both introduced themselves and told police they wouldn’t move.
Senior Sergeant Shields told the pair they would be breaking the law if they stayed on the road but still they refused to leave.
They were arrested and taken to Rockhampton Watch House where they refused to sign bail papers and spent four days in custody.
During a hearing yesterday the protesters claimed they were not doing anything illegal because they were stopping “war crimes” that the Australian Defence Force was involved in.
Acting Magistrate Mark Morrow found both men guilty after police argued they had a responsibility to move because traffic was being pushed onto the Bruce Highway.
Dowling told Mr Morrow: “What we did was a good thing and I’d like to invite you to join us and anyone else.”
O’Reilly told a police officer giving evidence that rather than being obstructed, the army soldiers were “just adapting to an innovation in their exercise”.
The police officer replied that the truck drivers for the military did feel obstructed.
Mr Morrow ordered a conviction be recorded but didn’t punish the pair any more after they had spent four days in custody in July.