The famous Big Joint is carried down Nimbin’s main street.
The famous Big Joint is carried down Nimbin’s main street.

Gunman arrested at MardiGrass

A MAN armed with a rifle was arrested at gunpoint near the MardiGrass celebrations in Nimbin yesterday.

The 30-year-old was walking along Mountaintop Rd on his way into the town when police, who had been tipped off, swooped.

They were taking no chances when they approached the man, who was openly carrying a .22 calibre rifle, said Richmond Local Area Command duty officer, Inspector Gary Cowan.

The man immediately co-operated with police and was arrested.

He was taken to Lismore police station and then to the Richmond Clinic for psychiatric assessment, Insp Cowan said.

The rifle was not loaded.

The arrest was the only serious incident at MardiGrass, Insp Cowan said, although there had also been “numerous” arrests for drug offences.

Yesterday’s parade was marked by high spirits and a friendly atmosphere, aided by relief at the sunny weather.

MardiGrass kicked off on Saturday with a host of program changes as organisers struggled to cope with wet weather and the council’s last-minute exclusion of Peace Park as a festival venue.

Once sorted, the Hemp Reform Festival got into full swing quickly with the Hemp Olympics proving popular, the highlight being the “tug-o-peace” between members of the NSW Police Force and the Nimbin Polite Force.

While the Polite Force initially swept the coppers off their feet, accusations of team-stacking on the hippie side of the line led to a recount, but the numeracy skills of the judges left a little to be desired and the ensuing rematch saw the outnumbered police again pulled over the thin green line.

Doubling as tug-o-war captain, Insp Cowan said he and his officers had trained for about 30seconds in preparation for the signature event, but avoided any dietary regimes.

“Mate I think they might’ve stacked the numbers,” he laughed.

“They had about 40 to our 10, but we don’t mind letting them win.”

While the Polite Force revelled in its win, tourists and punters poured into the villages for the annual rally and party.

Max Pike, from the Nimbin Jungle Patrol, said the festival had got off to a great start and complimented the police for working in with organisers.

He said their low-key approach was appreciated following fears that large police numbers could provoke confrontation.

“For 19 years the Jungle Patrol has been responsible for keeping the town safe during the festival,” he said.

“For a village of 400 people it swells up to 10,000 during the festival so it takes a lot of work and infrastructure to make sure everything flows smoothly.”

By afternoon close to 1000 joined in the “mass enlightenment’ in Cullen Street, lighting up herbal joints en masse.

By the time the Kombi Konvoy arrived from Byron Bay, protesters had the now-famous 12m-long inflatable joint bouncing above a large crowd that filled the centre of town.

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