Don’t blame the police, says Graffitti: ‘It’s the PA’s servility that is offensive’

Graffitti and KEA say the focus should stay on the PA’s servility to big business and offensive fuel station policy

Putting their money where their mouth is: Graffitti and KEA get stuck in as they unfurl a massive banner right in the middle of the Planning Authority board meeting on yet another relocation of a fuel service station outside development zones
Putting their money where their mouth is: Graffitti and KEA get stuck in as they unfurl a massive banner right in the middle of the Planning Authority board meeting on yet another relocation of a fuel service station outside development zones

Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent have struck a conciliatory tone over accusations against the police force for mishandling their Planning Authority protest, insisting that their main focus is the PA’s “offensive” fuel station policy, “and not police actions”.

“Officers were simply doing their job,” the two NGOs said, while clarifying however that members of the Rapid Intervention Unit (RIU) went overboard by grabbing and dragging activists from their neck, and even hurling their musical instruments at the protestors.

The protest on Thursday took place just inside the Planning Authority (PA) offices and resulted in somewhat of a ruckus when the protestors were slightly injured in the fray and handled poorly and violently by intervening police officers. Even Prime Minister Joseph Muscat condemned the reaction of the police, calling it "heavy-handed."

The Malta Police Association however justified police action and said that the protestors had gained access to the PA offices illegally and would not exit the building when told to do so.

In response Moviment Graffitti seemed to be in agreement with the MPA statement, arguing that the police were doing their job and that police action, whether legitimate or not, was not their priority at this point.

“Our foremost concern remains the Fuel Service Station Policy and the offensive behaviour of the PA, and not police actions,” they said of the PA policy that allows 3,000 sq.m mega petrol pumps to be built on land outside development zones, often turning into convenience stories on motorways in rural areas

“It is for this reason that the NGOs participate in an act of peaceful civil disobedience,” Graffitti said.

Nine months after a promised review of the Fuel Service Station Policy, this remains unreformed and still in place. While the Zejtun fuel station application this week was refused, Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent claimed that four fuel stations have already been approved in the past months, with 11 others being processed. “This amounts to a total size equal to seven times the area of the Floriana granaries on natural and agricultural land. This is pure madness and it must be stopped,” the NGOs said.

Moviment Graffitti said the power of developers had escalated outside democratic control since policymakers themselves, several organisations and thousands of citizens disapproved and voiced their outrage towards fuel stations on ODZ land.

The NGO promised that since it received overwhelming support over the past few days, they feel galvanised and encouraged to push for a stronger movement “that can defend our country from speculator’s greed and PA’s servility to big business.”

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