The West

Police quell council bike row

Call it a dispute, scuffle or altercation but what happened in the City of Vincent council chambers during talks about a bike plan on Tuesday was not on the agenda.

Councillors, staff and ratepayers saw police eject Leederville cafe owners Stuart Lofthouse and Debbie Saunders, of Greens & Co and 50mL respectively, who refused to leave a council meeting after a verbal altercation with staff.

The spur was the loss of parking in Oxford Street under Vincent's proposed bike plan, which was later approved.

Witnesses said Mr Lofthouse and Ms Saunders heckled Vincent staff and refused to withdraw comments or leave. There was a brief altercation with council rangers but the pair did not leave until police arrived.

Both denied abusing staff beyond calling the plan "stupid".

Mr Lofthouse said he and Ms Saunders refused to leave until police arrived to highlight their concerns about the plan because it was their only avenue left.

Their protest was the "final straw in a long battle" with the council not listening to ratepayers but following their own agendas. "We had to make a stand," he said.

He supported the bike plan concept but not where it did not fit.

Oxford Street resident Natasha Annan said events "got a bit out of control and a bit heated".

"He (Mr Lofthouse) said, 'I'm not going to leave the room unless you make me'," Ms Annan said.

"Two of the rangers were sort of holding him by the arm and asking him to leave. He might have tripped over a chair because somehow he was on the floor."

She said rangers tried to help him up but a woman was telling them to get their hands off him and a staff member was shouting: "Get your hands off my staff."

Mayor John Carey said Mr Lofthouse and Ms Saunders had a history of clashing with staff. They had refused to withdraw offensive comments at the meeting and events escalated.

WA Police said a man and woman complied with requests to leave the council after a disturbance. No complaints were received and nobody was injured.

The West Australian

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