Protesting against politicians who rudely and publicly suggest to Aboriginal Australians that they might abandon one of the means of their ongoing struggle – the 40 year old Tent Embassy – seems unacceptable to white colonial Australians and their housies who demand politeness from those whom they oppress. At the Lobby restaurant, protesters from the Tent Embassy were angered by Tony Abbott’s comment made earlier in the day that it was “probably time to move on from that”. In the context of Invasion and Survival Day, nationalist white colonial chest-thumping and four year long criminal Northern Territory Intervention whereby basic human rights of Aboriginal Australians are withdrawn, Abbott’s comment predictably was regarded as offensive.
Mr Anderson said the comments were disrespectful.
“He said the Aboriginal embassy had to go; we heard it on a radio broadcast,” he said.
“We thought no way, so we circled around the building.”
He said the protesters wanted the leaders to clarify their position and whether Mr Abbott was serious about removing the embassy.
“You’ve got 1,000 people here peacefully protesting, and to make a statement about tearing down the embassy – it’s just madness on the part of Tony Abbott.
“What he said amounts to inciting racial riots.
Barbara Shaw, who told Aboriginal Tent Embassy protesters the whereabouts of Opposition leader Tony Abbott at the Lobby, said she did not realise Prime Minister Julia Gillard would be present at the restaurant which protesters later picketed.
Ms Shaw says she couldn’t predict what would happen.
“I don’t regret it at all because nothing came of it,” she said.
“People wanted to make a little bit of noise and that is what they did.”
Ms Shaw says she did not realise the Prime Minister was with the Opposition Leader until after the restaurant incident.
But she says she does not regret telling people where Mr Abbott could be found.
“I basically informed the crowd of his whereabouts and they went,” she said.
“So I’m not responsible for people’s actions.
“It is up to people to do what they want to do.”
An eye witness relates the affair at the Lobby Restaurant.
A contingent of about 100 protesters made their way up the road to The Lobby and surrounded it. Though they were loud and noisy they were non-violent. Security blocked the protesters from getting close to the restaurant for a while but it didn’t take long for a few protesters to break the line and soon the rest had gotten close up against the restaurant’s walls. As the walls of The Lobby are made of glass the protesters could look in and see Mr Abbott and the others pretending not to hear them and, after about ten or fifteen minutes Julia Gillard’s white jacket was recognised and the protesters realised that she was in there along with Mr Abbott.
The aim of the protest had been to get Mr. Abbott to come out and talk to the crowd – now it wanted to get Ms. Gillard to come out and do the same as well. Yet they continued to ignore the protesters, drink champagne and take photos of one another while their constituents tried to get their attention.
A short time later a contingent of riot police and protective service officers arrived at the restaurant. All up there were about 50 to 60 officers there and protesters watched on as a group of about 20 riot police hurtled past them in V-formation, bursting into the restaurant and then locking themselves inside.
When I spoke to Sam she said that the protesters thought the riot police were arranging to form a sort of guard around the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader so that they could come out and talk to the crowd but, as the rest of the media has shown, the riot police’s real objective was to ‘escort’ the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to their cars.
As more protesters made their way to the restaurant, the riot police charged out the doors, practically dragging Ms Gillard along, while the onlookers began to shout “where are you going?” and “why won’t you talk to us?” As the cars drove off, some people threw plastic water bottles and water at the cars.
At this point things began to get fairly nasty; one protester was knocked into the rose bushes and one gigantic cop started brandishing a can of tear gas or capsicum spray (reports differ on this point) in people’s faces and shoved Sam, another girl and a female photo-journalist in the head. When Sam told him to calm down he reportedly bared his teeth and grinned so widely his eyes nearly popped out of his head; to many on site it was fairly clear that the officer was barely under control.
Then the police began to link arms to form a line against the protesters and the protesters followed suit, ending up with a Mexican standoff. Some of the Indigenous Elders called for the protesters to return to the Tent Embassy but a female Elder began a non-violent sit-down protest in the road just down from the café and soon a line of Indigenous women, female Elders and non-Indigenous women had been formed across the road.
The women declared that they were not going to be intimidated by the police and that they would not move until the police stood down. While some of the other protesters returned to the Tent Embassy, a large group (including some of the Occupy Melbourne contingent) remained to watch on and support their fellow activists until the police eventually gave in and stood down.
As the remaining protesters made their way back to the Tent Embassy they were greeted by applause and the female protesters went through a cleansing smoke ceremony.
Several eye witnesses in the report above confirm there was no violence amongst the protesters, and it was the police who were violent. The white colonial Gubbahs have failed to sanction their own, instead blaming the protesters.
John Passant, another eye witness says:
The cops reacted as they always do when confronted by angry Aboriginal people.
The riot squad and the Prime Minister’s protection unit brutalised the crowd to clear a path for Gillard and Abbott, the two politicians of the Northern Territory invasion, the two politicians of hate, the two politicians of dispossession, the two politicians of aboriginal genocide.
Why is non-violence never expected of settler colonial oppressors?
Abbott now claims he was misconstrued yet his words retain the implication that there is no longer a need for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
Mr Abbott said he never suggested it was time for the Aboriginal tent embassy itself to “move on”.
“I was asked a question (and) I made the point, a lot’s happened in 40 years and I think we have moved on from the issues … that caused the Aboriginal tent embassy to be setup,” he said
However, the goals of the Tent Embassy are far from being met.
According to Channel 9 hyperbolic reportage, Australia’s leaders were “shoved” and “pushed” “in a mad dash” to safety.
The only ‘violence’ was caused by police, captured below as police assaulted protesters, despite the reportage playing up a ‘security threat’:
Aboriginal Australians have a long, proud and often ignored tradition of resistance to white settler colonialism.
‘Aboriginal Australians have been no different from the Palestinians in fighting back against ethnic cleansing and settler-colonisation. Our people actually carried out an extensive armed resistance to European settler colonialism. This resistance began the moment Cook set foot on Australian soil in 1770 – the Gweagal people attacked Cook’s landing party with spears and woomeras. From that moment on Aboriginal resistance never ceased.
Prior to Invasion Day 2012, Michael Anderson, the “last survivor of the four young Black Power men who set up the Aboriginal Embassy in 1972” said he had “received intelligence that there is a move to destroy him personally and the Aboriginal sovereignty movement in which he plays a large role”.
Recently, during a visit by my mother and sister to Goodooga, my mother warned me that I need to be very well protected, because the government will find Aboriginal people to cause disruption to the sovereignty movement and threaten my life.
I have a very good idea of where the trouble will come from, as police intelligence is aware of the threat to my life and the sovereignty movement and that the people involved will commence a campaign to first character assassinate me to win support to reject me, thereby nullifying the sovereignty movement, by creating enormous divisions; which would permit the Australian government to say publically: Aborigines will never come together as a united body to fight for their sovereign status.
The First Nations Parliament wishes to return Julia’s shoe, lost during the rush to her vehicle.
Paul Coe, spokesperson for the First Nations Parliament, an organisation which has been re-established as a result of the anniversary celebrations, said Embassy activists were disgusted at the behavior of police.
“We’re appalled at the violence we saw today directed against the Prime Minister, and the tactics police employed to try and intimidate members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, who were peacefully protesting at a family gathering.
“There was no need for that number of police to be there, or to have that level of menace or intimidation.
“They overreacted without assessing whether or not there was any risk to the Prime Minister. The only violence came from police.
“There was no risk to the Prime Minister of Australia. No-one here would have hurt the Prime Minister. Even the Opposition leader was safe.
“I’d remind the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader that in 1972 the then leader of the Opposition Gough Whitlam and the late Lionel Murphy came and met with us in the tents. They never felt threatened.
“We wish to return the shoe to her as a gesture of friendship and in the spirit of cooperation. We hope she will turn up here tomorrow to accept it in the same spirit.
“It’s to show we mean no harm and will not tolerate any threats or intimidation against the Prime Minister of Australia.
“I am appalled that the Prime Minister felt intimidated or threatened in any way because the Prime Minister of Australia should not have to endure or tolerate any of those kinds of behavior directed at her, be it from police or anyone else.
“The shoe is now a symbol of trust between two nations of people.”
Mr Coe said the First Nations Parliament would be established with a year.
“We’re sending letters out to our lawmen and women asking them to meet with First Nations to convene our parliament and to draft our constitution.”
The organisation came about after meetings at the Tent Embassy celebrations.
“We have re-asserted our First Nation sovereign rights through the re-establishment of the First Nations Parliament (the AP was first formed in 1972),” Mr Coe said.
Julia may have lost a shoe, but Tony lost everything, with his fearful, racist paternalism exposed.
Julia’s shoe has been returned to her via a security guard at Parliament House.
Michael Anderson may not have been too far off the mark, considering the tenor of today’s Australian Editorial, extolling colonial-friendly Aboriginal ‘leaders’ and minimising present Indigenous disadvantage and demands. The editorial censuriously accuses protesters of bullying while tutting about free speech, which the protesters were exercising:
“In short, as Mr Abbott suggested, events have moved beyond the grievances of the tent embassy. The former Labor premier of NSW, Bob Carr, wrote bluntly yesterday that it should be “packed up”. Brave and sensible indigenous leaders such as Warren Mundine and Mick Gooda have observed how the protest has been a blow against free speech. The bullying antics are aimed at silencing opponents. Even if someone had called for the tent embassy to be “torn down”, they should not be met with intimidation. “
Thus do the rightwing appropriate righteous victimhood. The Australian editor bleats blithely onward:
“As Meryl Tankard Reist, Ian Plimer or even Andrew Bolt can attest, the modern illiberal Left seems to care little for free speech unless that speech echoes their views. This is a disturbing tendency that The Weekend Australian will always seek to expose and counter. If Australia Day is to mean anything, we must embrace open minds, free speech and common sense. “
Yet who is responsible for this misleading headline which an average Australian might consider an incitement?
Mr Anderson said the Tent Embassy would pursue a legal challenge against the British Government.
He said the embassy had lawyers in London who would take their concerns to the European Court of Human Rights and possibly the International Court of Justice.
”England still has some residual obligation in Australia.
”So what we’re doing now is we’re investigating the legal ramifications of that 1875 Act which recognises when Queen Victoria said she did not claim sovereignty or dominion over Aboriginal lands of this country and the people.
”Our objective is to go after England because they failed to implement their law in this country.”
Mr Anderson said he had been advised that the Tent Embassy had the capacity to sue the British Government in the court system.
Ms Sattler, who was present at Thursday’s protest at the Canberra tent embassy, is yet to address claims she was Mr Hodge’s mystery contact.
Mr Abbott yesterday tried to distance himself from his remarks, saying he did not advocate tearing down the tent embassy.
But conservative think tank Menzies House, co-founded by Mr Abbott’s colleague Cory Bernardi, has set up a petition calling for the embassy’s closure.
Some Aboriginal leaders have condemned the tent embassy activists, describing their behaviour as “appalling”.
But tent embassy co-founder Michael Anderson defended the violent protest and said the embassy was still important to promote Aboriginal rights.
Ms Gillard slammed the ugly scenes on Thursday.
“What I utterly condemn is when protests turn violent the way we saw the violence (on Thursday), and particularly disrupting an event which was to honour some extraordinary Australians,” she said.
Opposition attack dog Christopher Pyne said he would be surprised if Mr Hodges acted alone.
Activists from Canberra’s tent embassy were furious with Mr Abbott after wrongly believing he had called for the protest camp to be disbanded.
They rushed a nearby restaurant upon hearing Mr Abbott was inside.
Earlier, radio presenter Ray Hadley reported a staffer to Ms Gillard had rung Aboriginal tent embassy protester Barbara Shaw, or another protester, that Mr Abbott had called for the embassy to be torn down.
“Once she was told that, she was also told Mr Abbott was across the road (and) ‘maybe you can give them a bit of a liven up’,” the 2GB presenter told his audience.
The statement from Ms Gillard’s office did not address the allegation that Mr Hodges sought to inform tent embassy activists of Mr Abbott’s alleged comments.
Mr Abbott earlier declared he’d been “verballed”, saying he had not said the tent embassy should be removed.
“I never said that and I don’t think that,” he said.
“I made the point that a lot has happened in 40 years and I think that we have moved on from the issues of 40 years ago which caused the Aboriginal tent embassy to be set up.”
Ms Shaw, who told the protesters Mr Abbott wanted the tent embassy disbanded, said she heard of Mr Abbott’s comments from “a fly on the wall”.
After Ms Gillard was bundled into a waiting car and whisked away, a protester displayed one of Ms Gillard’s blue high-heel shoes, which had fallen off during her hasty exit, and shouted: ”Gingerella, come get your shoe!”
A day for celebration, not a day to dwell : vacuous patronisation by a Gubbah or migaloo sharing Abbott’s mindset
White supremacist alert – Darrin Hodges touting housie Mundine as a valid representative of Indigenous Australians.
It is right to be angry; it is right to protest – land rights now!
Abbott says Tent Embassy should remain
Senior indigenous leaders such as social justice commissioner Mick Gooda and Warren Mundine are dismayed at what happened on Thursday,
but a tent embassy organiser called them “handpicked puppets” who did not represent grassroots Aboriginal people.
Michael Anderson, the last surviving member of the original four that established the tent embassy in 1972, denied the ugly protest had set back the indigenous movement.
“You fellas can … dwell on that and stay there, but right now we’re passed that,” he said.
“We’re over it, so get over it and move on.”
Davies’ article marred by incorrect designation of Australian Aboriginals as ‘Aborigines’ – (see Luke L. Pearson’s article) Aussie Day ‘riot’: perspective and balance hard to find
The protest was not violent. It was certainly rowdy and confronting. The protesters chanted loudly and angrily, and some beat time on the glass walls of the restaurant. There was some pushing and shoving as the VIP cars finally moved out. Police on the day said there were “scuffles” and no arrests would be made.
You know there has never been any compensation, nor has the legal situation fundamentally changed. The contemptuous white attitude of the past persists today in the intervention in the Northern Territory, which was imposed by Tony Abbott’s party and continued by the Prime Minister’s party.
The intervention blatantly belies Abbott’s and Gillard’s claims that things are better than 40 years ago and that most Australians have respect for Indigenous people. Respect would involve looking together for a way forward, not draconian and racist income management and displacement from traditional country.
Change Australia Day: Mansell Mr Mansell said Aboriginal people would support any date other than January 26.
“As I said in my statement yesterday, Tony Hodges from the Prime Minister’s office told me what Tony Abbott had said – that people should ‘move on’ from the tent embassy,” she said.
“Yesterday the Prime Minister gave an accurate account of my role.”