Australian PM was dragged away after being trapped
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, had to be extracted from a restaurant near Parliament House as angry protesters banged on the glass.
Supporters of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra picketed the Lobby restaurant over comments by Mr Abbott this morning that the tent embassy should close.
As many as 200 gathered in front of the restaurant, banging on its glass walls and yelling "shame" and "racist".
The incident, about 2.30pm at the restaurant several hundred metres from Parliament, occurred while Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott were presenting the National Emergency Medals.
The pair were forced to stay inside for 30 minutes while the protest outside continued.
As many as 1000 people had gathered as part of a march to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tent Embassy.
Ms Gillard was escorted in dramatic fashion from the building by her federal police Close Personal Protection team.
The police were pulling her out and they were clearly a bit faster than her and along the way she lost a shoe and tumbled.
One of the protesters, the chairman of the Northern Basin Aboriginal nations, Fred Hooper, spoke to Sky News shortly after the politicians’ dramatic exit, explaining why they caused the incident.
‘‘We were peacefully celebrating the 40th anniversary of the aboriginal tent embassy. The opposition leader on national television made a comment to tear down something that have built over 40 years, which is sacred to us,’’ he said.
‘‘So what do you expect us to do when we're 200 yards away from the person that makes that comment? Do you expect us to say, ‘yeah Tony we're gonna do that now? We're gonna rip it down?’’’
Earlier today one of the tent embassy's founders, Michael Anderson, addressed a rally at the site.
"To hell with the government and the courts in this country. You haven't got a high hope to take us on," he said.
"We will force these issues. Too many of our families have suffered for some bastard to get in the road."
Mr Sean Gordon, Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council leader from North West NSW, said the protest had been peaceful until an announcement was made in which Mr Abbott's comments were read to the crowd.
"It was like waving a red rag at a bull. This is the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy and these blokes are 200 metres away. If Tony Abbott is a visionary then why did he fail to see what this would do to our people."
"In answer to the Opposition Leader's comments an NSW Aboriginal Council member, Roy RC, told reporters "maybe Abbott is right and it is time for the tent embassy to go."
"And then it is time to erect a black Parliament with politicians we can choose, politicians who are going to have a say in our lives," he said.
Mr Gordon said further protests were planned for the rest of the week and that "we're going to keep the fight going. We are standing up here and we are not going away."
Mr Abbott's comments about the Tent Embassy were made during an event at the Sydney Opera House this morning in response to a question from the media about whether the Tent Embassy was still relevant.
"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 comments which appeared on Sky.
"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."
After the incident at the restaurant Mr Anderson spoke to the media, saying Mr Abbott's comments were disrespectful and they wanted know if Mr Abbott was serious about removing the Tent Embassy.
"He said the Aboriginal embassy had to go, we heard it on a radio broadcast. We thought no way, so we circled around the building," he said.
"You've got 1000 people here peacefully protesting and to make a statement about tearing down the embassy - it's just madness on the part of Tony Abbott," Mr Anderson said.
"What he said amounts to inciting racial riots."
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