Self-described “refugees” from the Convoy to Canberra protests have set up camp outside of the capital, and observers say the conditions are concerning.
After police moved the protesters out of a makeshift camp near the National Library and a second site at the EPIC showground, The Canberra Times reports about 100 people have set up camp at Caloola Farm, which is 45 minutes south of Canberra.
On social media, one of the protesters claimed the new camp is open to “vulnerable people, the elderly, the disabled, Indigenous communities, single mums with children, or vulnerable families with children”.
Some of the remaining protesters have wound up at other ad-hoc campsites in the region.
However, the conditions at Caloola Farm are cause for concern.
“It seems like a humanitarian disaster in the making to me,” Cam Smith, an independent researcher into the far-right movement, told The New Daily.
Most people are sleeping in their cars or small tents, and while wi-fi is available, there is no phone reception.
Elise Thomas, an open source intelligence analyst, wrote on Twitter that the camp “is starting to sound like a serious welfare hazard”.
She pointed to poor hygiene, dirty water, and the fact that some people who got lifts into camp don’t have a way to get home.
However, some of the protesters have painted a different picture.
“Like any family/tribe, there are trouble makers, sh-t stirrers and complainers, but I also found a tribe of helpers, problem solvers, supporters and generous, kind, loving souls,” one protester wrote on Facebook.
“We have the Camp EPIC chef in the kitchen, gate-keepers on shifts 24 hours a day, a medic on site, women’s council, kids’ space, healers and daily meetings.”
Some of the first-aid equipment has been used to treat symptoms of sunburn, which some protesters believe is the result of sonic weapons used by police.
There is no evidence to suggest police used such devices against protesters.
Some protesters have also claimed police are at the gates, however, ACT Policing told TND that no such roadblock is in place.
One protester even claims to be in charge of the movement’s self-proclaimed “finance department” and says he’s raised tens of thousands of dollars.
However, at the protesters’ previous camp site at the EPIC camp, a donation basket was passed around with the intent of purchasing land for them to set up permanently.
That money, which is separate from the funds raised at Caloola Farm, has not been accounted for since.
It’s unclear how long the protesters will remain at Caloola Farm as conditions reportedly deteriorate and rain is forecast for several more days.
A spokesperson for ACT Policing told TND: “The property is privately managed and as such arrangements for the campers on the site are a matter between them and the lease holder.”