Coal train drivers and other workers were the innocent victims of anti-coal protesters’ actions, the supporters of a driver who verbally abused a protester who had climbed aboard his locomotive on Thursday said.
It followed the release of footage of a heated verbal exchange between protester Micah Weekes and the locomotive driver.
The furious driver yells: “Get down off my f...ing loco,” as Mr Weekes spread his anti-coal message via a Facebook Live broadcast. The driver goes on to point out that another protester who had stood in front of the locomotive had placed their life at risk.
Mr Weekes was later arrested and charged.
About 500 anti-coal protesters are camping at an Lower Hunter property as part of a five day Frontline Action on Coal and Newcastle Justice Uprising training and networking event.
Newcastle police issued a warning on Friday that unlawful and dangerous behaviour would not be tolerated if protests occurred on the weekend. A high visibility police operation will run from Friday to Sunday.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens emphasised the need for safety as part of any protest.
“While we of course we completely respect the right to protest, and do so ourselves when necessary, the safety of workers and the community needs to be the number one priority at all times,” he said.
”Transport workers are often placed in difficult circumstances which can be incredibly stressful, especially when lives are at risk.”
“Standing up for your beliefs should be applauded, however it is also important to respect the safety of workers and other people.”
A Frontline Action on Coal spokeswoman said Mr Weekes was concerned about health risks and job insecurity faced by coal industry workers.
“We understand that a rapid and reliable transition is a major concern for the Hunter Region and really respect people like Micah who are willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry who really have too much power over the lives of everyday Australian’s,” she said.