CHAOTIC scenes broke out at Beaconsfield yesterday as anti-pulp mill sentiment spilled over into a confrontation with police.
About 450 protesters from Tap Into A Better Tasmania - known as TAP - and about 30 protesters from a new group called Pulp The Mill arrived at the Beaconsfield Primary School, where the State Government was due to hold a community forum.
The two protests were organised independently.
Protesters from the TAP group lined both sides of the road outside the school, waving signs, sounding horns and banging pots and pans as they waited for Government ministers to arrive.
While TAP had given Tasmania Police an undertaking that it would not allow its protesters to enter the school grounds, the Pulp The Mill group had not.
Its protesters, wearing blue and white armbands, entered the grounds by a side entrance and silently blockaded the front doors of the school.
When police attempted to confront the Pulp The Mill protesters, hundreds of TAP protesters on the road surged through the school gates and on to the grounds in an apparent show of support.
A handful of police were left to attempt to turn the TAP protesters back, but the weight of numbers saw the police temporarily lose control of the situation.
A TAP organiser eventually appealed to the protesters to leave the grounds.
"We had an agreement that we would not come onto the school grounds," the man pleaded with the crowd.
"Please respect that, otherwise we give the dark side a reason to slander us. Please go back to the road."
The crowd eventually turned back, leaving 21 Pulp The Mill protesters in a human chain in front of the school doors.
Those protesters were arrested.
Pulp The Mill spokeswoman Lucy Landon- Lane said her group had been "in training" for about 18 months and had been responsible for a protest at Parliament House in August when 20 people were arrested.
She said she had been surprised the TAP protesters had reacted by coming on to the school grounds, which she believed was a show of support.
While Ms Landon-Lane said the protest had become chaotic for a few moments, she did not believe anyone had been in danger.
"We certainly weren't anticipating that," she said.
"But we are only interested in peaceful protest.
"There will be no confrontation from us."
It is understood the 21 protesters were arrested and charged with trespass.
It is also understood they could face a maximum penalty of a $600 fine if found guilty.
Pulp The Mill member David Godfrey-Smith said he had never before been arrested and had never before attended a protest on any issue.
"I am a little bit nervous about being arrested, but I am not afraid," Mr Godfrey- Smith said.
"I am not a protester. I am not going to stand out there (on the road) and bang pots and pans, because that is not working.
"This is the only option left for us to show our depth of feeling on this issue."