SCITUATE (CBS) – Longtime residents of Scituate say police went too far trying to stomp out the annual July 3rd bonfires on Humarock Beach.

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Scituate and State Police moved in with a front-end loader and cleared the wood before the fires could be started.

The move is being met with outrage by people there.

“They handcuffed a mother right in front of her small children who were screaming,” said Larry Tocci. “They threw another older man to the ground.”

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano spoke with a man who was arrested

There were a number of arrests for disorderly conduct and they appeared in court on Thursday.

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“I was really surprised; I was outraged I didn’t act violently at all I basically just stood there,” says Michael Shea. “I guess you could call it a peaceful protest.”

Criminal complaints mention “100 people blocking access to the beach” and police being met with “insults and threats.”

Still many believe the arrests are an over-reaction.

“They came down with this bulldozer, it was like Tiananmen Square,” says John Riley. “I mean the damn thing must have been 18-feet tall, and there’s little kids running around the beach.”

Scituate officials point to the fires that consumed four seaside homes in March as an example of how fast shorefront fires can spread. Those fires were not started by bonfires.

Bonfire fans say it’s a question of liberty.

“What is this?” asks Mary Preskenis. “This happened on the Fourth of July, right after I tell my children, ‘this is Independence Day a day of liberty and a day of freedom,’ we had no freedom down here that night.”

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The police and fire chief called the bonfire enforcement a success, saying it was all about public safety.