ONLINE insults, legal threats, violence and intimidation – the battle over Midland Oval is officially getting nasty as the community reels from the unprovoked attack on City of Swan Mayor David Lucas on Monday night.
A 67-year-old Midland man, believed to be Warren Jeater, was charged with one count of assaulting a person performing a public function, which carries a maximum jail term of 12 years in prison, and unlawful damage after allegedly striking the Mayor with a microphone in front of more than 100 witnesses.
The fallout from the shocking instance was immediate.
Save Midland Oval organisers moved to distance themselves from Mr Jeater, with Save Midland Oval Facebook page administrator Grace Turco issuing a statement denouncing his actions, stating he had no connection with the group.
Swan councillor Mark Elliot, who had been sitting just metres to the left of Cr Lucas and was visibly shaken by the violent attack, issued a statement on Twitter that seemed to link Mr Jeater with the campaign, pointing out a “nasty undercurrent” running through the opposition campaign.
Speaking to Echo News on Wednesday, Cr Elliot clarified his claims.
“I do have multiple witnesses who have mentioned that prior to the alleged assault he was wearing a hat with pink ribbon on it, which is the insignia of the Save Midland Oval group,” he said.
“Now further to that, again I’m not suggesting the assailant was a member of the group.
“Elements of opposition to the development – not all of them, but elements – have engaged in behaviour, certainly online and elsewhere, that have been demeaning and defamatory to our council officers.
“It’s a poor tone that the debate has taken.
“If you have an undercurrent of behaviour that is engaging in demeaning or defaming or derogatory language and encouraging it, when someone takes it a step further, they don’t get to be surprised by it.”
The demeaning, defaming or derogatory language Cr Elliot refers to was thrown under the spotlight last week, when lawyers for City of Swan CEO Mike Foley, Momentum Legal threatening Save Midland Oval Facebook page administrator Ms Turco and Save Midland Oval Facebook group administrator Patrick Irwin with legal action regarding defamatory comments made on both the page and the group.
While Mr Foley did not respond to questions regarding his legal challenge, Ms Turco issued an immediate apology on the public Facebook page, while Echo News understands Mr Irwin also issued an apology later that week.
However the ire has not been flowing just one way, with Ms Turco forced to temporarily take down the Save Midland Oval page on Monday night after receiving, on the Save Midland Oval page and her personal account, a series of threatening, abusive and intimidating messages.
In a statement, Ms Turco said it ws disappointing Mr Jeater’s alleged actions had derailed what was a productive meeting.
“I was shocked at the violent attack that occurred at last night’s Special Meeting of Electors,” she said.
“The Save Midland Oval community does not condone the violence and is not aware of the identity of the man who has been charged.
“It is unfortunate that this incident derailed what was otherwise a productive and powerful meeting in which the community peacefully outlined its concerns about the Midland Oval Redevelopment.
“The incident has left the community feeling shaken and traumatised.
“It is unfortunate that the administrator of the Save Midland Oval Facebook page had to un-publish the page after receiving numerous accusations and threats of violence.
“After speaking with the Police, the page has now been re-published.
“It will continue to provide a space where the community can articulate its desire to see a development that retains Midland’s last remaining green space.