Police called after protest incident leaves council staff shaken
A LARGELY peaceful protest against Gympie Regional Council’s repeal on environment laws was marred yesterday by an incident which left a council employee shaken.
Dozens of protesters advocating for the laws’ retention gathered outside the chambers, waving placards and lobbying councillors to vote against the staff’s recommendation.
However, witnesses alleged a handful of protesters tried to gain access to the meeting room which has been closed to the public due to the pandemic.
Both protesters and the council called the police after the incident, which left a pregnant council employee visibly shaken and in need of help from other staff.
Council staff then called police, and The Gympie Times has been told protesters themselves called officers to confirm the application of these COVID-19 rules.
CEO Shane Gray said the council must adhere to the State’s COVID guidelines.
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“Due to the size of the room, council can only have a minimum number of people attend,” Mr Gray said.
“It is important for all members of the community to have an opinion and council encourages a diverse range of thoughts and ideas.
“However, it is not okay to be disrespectful or abusive towards staff, nor to physically try to enter a meeting.
“This had staff feeling threatened, with one pregnant staff member having to intervene; this intimidating behaviour was not appropriate.”
Mayor Glen Hartwig welcomed the protesters’ presence but said any behaviour that “puts a pregnant staff member in harm’s way is not appropriate”.
“We’re happy to talk with you and discuss things in a mature manner, but this behaviour needs to be reciprocated,” he said.
Mr Gray said the community needed to remember staff did not set the policy.
“Decisions made are by our council and not staff and we ask that people treat staff and each other with respect, as this is what our community stands for,” he said.