Figs finally fall at Laman Street

Figs finally fall at Laman Street
The first branches are lopped from the Laman Street figs.

The first branches are lopped from the Laman Street figs.

For Herald Civic reporter Ben Smee's retrospective on the history of the issue, click here.

Reporter Ben Smee, photographers Simone De Peak and Dean Osland, and online journalist Amy Spear were at Laman Street from dawn today until the branches began to fall this afternoon. Here is a reverse chronology of the day.

2.04pm: The Laman Street figs are falling. A large branch has just hit the ground. People are yelling and shaking the gate that separates them from the demolition scene.

1.55pm: The sound of equipment, possibly chainsaws, can be heard and greenery can be seen on the ground.

Picture by Amy Spear

1.53pm: Trucks have moved past the picket line and barriers. People are yelling at the gates - some are very emotional.


1.47pm: Police have successfully moved people out of the roadway but they are pushing to keep the gates to Laman Street open.

1.44pm: Police in Laman Street are attempting to move people out of the way. People are yelling and screaming.


1.34pm: Save our Figs protesters are being called upon to stand in the middle of the road and link arms in preparation for action.

1.25pm: Save Our Figs has put out a call for reinforcements to come join the Laman Street picket line.

1.23pm: Protesters say police may now arrest anyone who pickets and prevents contractors from entering Laman Street.

1.17pm:The last protester, Fee Mozeley, is cut away and removed from behind the barrier at Laman Street.

Picture by Amy Spear

12.39pm: Officers cut through a steel pipe which Sharee Hanssen has attached herself to. A large crowd looks on. After two minutes she is freed and taken away.

12.33pm: The chanting has turned ugly. Frank Cordingley has arrived and protesters are demanding that he quit.

12.24pm: The crowd looks on as several more protesters are brought out, including Rochelle Wood and David Horkan.

12.18pm: Police arrest protester Sharon Healy.

12.09pm: Police begin removing protesters, working from the Darby Street end of Laman Street towards Dawson Street. The first protester to be removed is activist Carrie Jacobi.

12.05pm: A number of police have entered the barricaded area at Laman Street with the apparent intent of cutting out one of the protesters. People are chanting.

Picture by Amy Spear

11.58am: Movements on Laman Street indicate that police are getting ready to remove protesters from the figs.

10.38am A solid rumour is sweeping the Save Our Figs ranks saying that a convoy of trucks is en route from Broadmeadow.

Picture by Amy Spear

10.25am: Protesters join in a chorus of "We shall not be moved".

10.17am: The Herald understands that six protesters remain in the no-go zone. Police rescue personnel assessed the situation earlier but are no longer behind the barricades.

10.03am: A protester is removed from behind the Laman Street barricades and told to go home. No arrest is made.

Picture by Simone De Peak

9.51am: Police rescue have gone behind the Laman Street barriers with the apparent intent of removing protesters chained to trees and posts.

9.24am: Plain-clothed police negotiators arrive to speak with protesters.

9.09am: Police say they're hoping for a peaceful conclusion to events.

8.45am: Protesters say that police will use "pain compliance" but they intend to stay put regardless.

8.41am: Police prepare to give a press conference about the situation on Laman Street. Civic Park is cordoned off as a command post.

Picture by Amy Spear

8.23am: Campaigners tell the Herald that the first electrician on-site would not cross the picket line to turn the power off. Representatives from another company arrived and performed the task.

8.11am The Herald speaks with an intermediary who has been talking to police on behalf of the campaigners. The spokesperson says protesters are tied to trees and poles with L-shaped steel pipes.

Apparently the only way to remove these steel pipes is to cut them.

7.59am: Electricians come through the library on to Laman Street to cut power before removal of the figs begins.

7.49am: Wayne Humphrey, from Newcastle police, goes behind the barriers to speak with protesters who have chained themselves to the figs.

Picture by Amy Spear

7.45am: Lord mayor John Tate addresses the protesters and says he would love to be with those chained to the trees, but says he can't. He also speaks about democracy.

Picture by Simone De Peak

7.36am: Caity Raschke (pictured above, second from right) addresses the crowd and says the saga of the Laman Street figs is one that will go around the world, showing how stupid Newcastle City Council is. Ms Raschke says she thanks and admires those still chained to trees behind the barriers.

7.14am:Cr Bob Cook faces the crowd of protesters to calls of: "Shame, Bob, shame".

6.47am: The Herald speaks with Save Our Figs activist Fee Mozeley, bedded down underneath one of the Laman Street figs. She says she will stay as long as she can. Meanwhile, other protesters continue to sing and wait.

Hear the phone interview by clicking on the media player below.


Picture by Simone De Peak

6.28am: Police are talking with protesters tied to the trees.

Picture by Simone De Peak

6.27am: Electrical contractors have left after failing to move a community picket line. All the action seems to be at the Dawson Street end, as extra police and security arrive.

6.18am: The councillors who voted to remove the figs are referred to as "the terrible seven". Protesters say they will name the stumps after these councillors.

Council compliance officers have completely blocked the cathedral end of Auckland Street.

6.01am: A nearby resident contacts The Herald to say she can hear chants of "Save Our figs" from her balcony.

Above, contractors are faced with the picket line. Pictures by Amy Spear

Power contractors and tradesmen are arriving and protesters are forming a picket line to prevent them from accessing the area.

5.40am: One lone policeman calls for backup at Laman Street where seven fig protesters have made their way through fences and climbed into tree branches or encamped at the bases of trees destined for destruction.

A council compliance officer has blocked Laman Street.

There are more than 50 protesters on site and more are arriving by the minute.

Above, early protesters assemble. Picture by Simone De Peak

For video from the scene, click here.

5.57am: Eleven protesters are now chained to fig trees, nearby poles and posts or have climbed up the trees. Up to eight police officers are now on the scene.

Lord mayor John Tate has spoken to the crowd of around 70 people and said he supports their protest actions.