Australian PM rescued by riot police during protest
Melbourne: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were trapped in a building Thursday in the capital Canberra during a violent protest and had to be rescued by riot police.
The two political leaders were attending a function to mark Australia Day — the day the first British fleet came to establish a colony in 1788.
Protesters began banging on the glass sides of the building and yelled ‘shame’ and ‘racist’.
The protest lasted 20 minutes until about 50 policemen dragged the two leaders to safety, the Telegraph reported.
Gillard appeared shaken as she was rushed out of the Lobby restaurant near the Old Parliament House.
She lost her footing and a shoe as she was taken by armed officers to a waiting vehicle.
She and Abbott were escorted to the same car, with angry protesters running after it and banging on the roof and bonnet.
The daily said the protests began after comments from Abbott, who questioned the relevance of a makeshift aboriginal tent embassy, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary on the lawns of the Federal Parliament.
Around 200 protesters had gathered at the embassy.
Aboriginal leader Fred Hooper said the event had been peaceful until Abbott made his remarks.
“The opposition leader on national television made a comment to tear down something that has built over 40 years, which is sacred to us. 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’ ” Hooper said.
Many indigenous Australians regard the annual day celebrations as “invasion day”.
Abbott said he understood the reasons for the embassy’s founding — initiated in 1972 in a call for recognition of aboriginal land rights — but questioned its continued presence.
“I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held with every Australian. Yes, I think a lot has changed and I think it’s probably time to move on from that,” Abbott said.