«It was as if they were expecting a terrorist act to be committed, and we’re far from that I can assure you. We’re just local members of the community protecting our natural asset,» Ms Schapper said, estimating 50 officers arrived.
The local group held a candlight vigil on Tuesday night for the trees, which were planted after a high-pressure gas pipeline was installed in 1971.
«We’re grieving the loss of the trees,» Ms Schapper said.
«The community’s in shock and mourning.»
She said she was «one of the younger vigilantes», with some of those camping on a rotating roster aged in their 70s.
Ms Schapper said the community and government needed to be educated on the value of urban trees following the «slaughter of two corymbia citriodora», commonly known as a lemon-scented gum or blue-spotted gum.
Locals met the gas company twice, and wanted to negotiate alternatives.
APA Group, which manages the Australian Gas Networks network in Victoria, said the trees needed to be removed to avoid corrosion and to preserve the integrity of the pipeline.
«Damage to the coating of the high pressure steel pipeline was discovered during routine inspections,» Ken Hedley, general manager of networks operatoins at APA Group said in a statement.
«The 250-millimetre steel pipeline that runs through Alphington operates at very high pressure and is critical to the supply of natural gas for thousands of residents in the Alphington, Northcote, Thornbury and Preston areas.»
APA said work to repair the damage to coating on the steel gas pipeline, caused by the trees, would be done at a later date. Roads and footpaths may be closed for up to five days for the repairs.
An independent report for APA by GHD Group found alternatives would take signficantly longer, cause more disruption, and require the removal of other trees.
It said decomissioning a section of the existing pipeline would cost about $1.4 million, compared to $100,000 for removing the trees and repairing the pipes.
Police set up an outer cordon «to ensure community safety whilst works were undertaken» and put traffic management points in place, a spokeswoman said.
Video shows a group of officers taking a woman from the roundabout.
Victoria Police said one man was forcibly removed.
A Fairfield woman, 49, was arrested for allegedly mowing down two police officers at a traffic management point several hundred metres down the road at Alphington Street.
One male officer received minor injuries, while the second was unharmed.
Police said she was not involved in the protest.
She is expected to be charged on summons with recklessly exposing an emergency worker to risk by driving.
Rachel is a breaking news reporter for The Age.