News September 20, 2018

Angry Defqon.1 punters accuse police of scaring them away from medical tents and drug-testing services

Former Assistant Editor
Angry Defqon.1 punters accuse police of scaring them away from medical tents and drug-testing services

Police have come under renewed fire from Defqon.1 punters who have taken to social media claiming cops were using intimidation tactics to prevent them from accessing medical care and pill-testing kits.

Angry messages posted on Facebook describe officers “swarming” a medical tent, and numerous reports are emerging from festivalgoers who say they were watched, followed, questioned and searched by officers after they visited a vendor who sold purity testing kits.

“There was also that many police around the medic tents that it was turning sick people off because they didn’t want to get searched or charged with possession,” wrote one festivalgoer. “Police should not be swarming medic tents.”

“When I walked past [the medical tent] there was like 4-5 workers/volunteers and about the same amount of police sitting next to them in a tent with no festivalgoers in or around it.”

“We were scared to even go near the medical tent because it was surrounded by police the whole time,” posted another.

Numerous reports from punters also say police were interfering with customer access to an independent vendor who was legally selling single-use drug purity testing kits.

Blow Me First is a harm minimisation service who has been facilitating drug and alcohol testing at events Australia-wide for the last six years. Their director David Gould said that NSW is the only state where they’ve had issues with police.

“They weren’t warm about what we were doing,” Mr Gould told news.com.au, confirming that he had heard reports of his customers being followed by police.

“They were stood around watching what we were doing and asking lots of questions. There were people who kept coming back and standing there, I assume they were undercover officers.”

After purchasing the single-use kit for $15, customers put a small sample of their substance into the pouch of the device, shake it, and compare to the provided colour chart, which will let them know if there’s something harmful in their drugs, as well as giving an indication of purity.

“It’s a small part of our business but they are very popular,” Mr Gould said. “They have been around for years.”

But attendees have said that police were watching, following and questioning customers and curious bystanders, preventing access to the kits.

“I was at the tent looking to buy a kit,” one Facebook post reads. “While standing at the tent, my friend came over and said: ‘Hey bro, don’t buy anything. Three police [officers] are watching you from behind.’

“So, I turned around and saw one police [officer] in the corner of my eyes. I decided not to buy anything from the tent and walked off.

“While doing so, the police still followed us when walking to the red stage, so we went into the mosh pit and lost them.”

There are also reports of punters getting searched mere minutes after approaching the tent, or being questioned by undercover officers who were surrounding it.

“There were multiple police officers standing nearby and I felt like they were keeping a very close eye on me as I left the tent,” said another festivalgoer.

Greens MP David Shoebridge has told news.com.au that reports of police scaring people away from medical tents and services aimed at helping them make informed decisions about drug use were “a real concern”.

“These reports suggest the police presence was preventing basic harm minimisation measures from being implemented.

“In fact, the nature of police presence was causing people to actively avoid them and that should never happen at a music festival or anywhere.

“They had a medical tent, but the presence was turning sick people off. If you have them (medical tents), you want to encourage people to use them.

“If they are worried about coming into contact with police, they are going to avoid the medical tents and that’s a real concern.

“I haven’t heard this before and it sets a terrible precedent if it produces these kind of outcomes.”

A NSW Police spokesman has said that these allegations have been sent to senior officers, but since the deaths which occurred at the festival are being treated as a critical incident, and will be subject to an independent review, there’s a slim chance of reply.

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