2012

Australia's PM dragged away from Aboriginal rights protest

The protesters were marching at the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy to mark 40 years since its establishment and rushed the restaurant in response to comments by an Australian official earlier in the day

By Native Press staff reports

CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 26, 2012

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Lukas Coch/EPA

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is escorted by police and bodyguards out of a restaurant after aboriginal Tent Embassy protesters tried to get into the building in Canberra, Australia, on Thursday.

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The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader were trapped in the building for about 30 minutes as about 100 activists from the nearby Aboriginal Tent embassy banged on windows.

The leaders' were escorted out of The Lobby restaurant by body guards and into a waiting car as protesters were pushed back by a line of Australian Federal Police officers.

Ms Gillard stumbled and lost a shoe as she was rushed from the building, but was unhurt.

The Lobby is just metres away from the Tent Embassy, which was established 40 years ago tomorrow.

The incident was sparked by comments made by Mr Abbott made earlier in the day, which were interpreted as a call to disband the Tent Embassy.

"Look, I can understand why the Tent Embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then," he said in a doorstop interview in Sydney.

''I think a lot has changed for the better since then.

''We had the historic apology just a few years ago, one of the genuine achievements of Kevin Rudd as prime minister.

''We had the proposal which is currently for national consideration to recognise indigenous people in the Constitution.

''I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian and yes, I think a lot has changed since then and I think it probably is time to move on from that.''

Protester Kalara Gilbert told The Australian Online the crowd was angered by the comments.

“Some people found out that they were at that restaurant so we thought we’d take the fight to the people,” Ms Gilbert said.

“What Tony Abbott said was disgraceful. Our people are living in awful third world conditions, they’re dying and this government just continues to turn a blind eye to it.”

Aboriginal activists from the embassy are demanding the Prime Minister sign a treaty of sovereignty granting ownership of Australian land to its indigenous peoples.

 

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