In Canberra, in front of Old Parliament House (also known as the Museum of Democracy) is the First Nation’s Tent Embassy, first established in 1972 by four Aboriginal activists who wanted to draw attention to the plight and inequality of Indigenous Australians. 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Embassy and so a large gathering was organised for this Australia/Invasion day.

The Tent Embassy managed to get a lot of press today (26/1) after a large protest was held that resulted in Australian Federal Police and protective services dragging Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to their ComCars and massively over-reacting to the presence of protesters at the site. But what really happened?

Speaking to Sam Castro, currently at the Tent Embassy, I was able to get a run down of the day’s events.

The morning started with speeches being made at the Tent Embassy on a range of subjects until one person stood up and explained to the crowd that Tony Abbott had remarked to the media that he believed the Tent Embassy was no longer relevant and should be packed up and moved on; information had just come through that Tony Abbott was at The Lobby, a restaurant near the Old Parliament House, and the suggestion was made that the group should go there and ask Abbott to talk to the crowd and explain himself.

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.


A few final points:

  • Contrary to some reports, the protest was not “an unprecedented outburst of violence”; in fact the only violence on the day was done by police and protective services (See 0:15, 0:41 and 0:42 in this video and 0:15 and 0:45 in this one).
  • The protesters were unaware that Julia Gillard was in the restaurant until some time after the action had started.
  • The aim of the protest was merely to get Mr Abbott to speak to the crowd, not to assault him or anything like that.
  • The massive over-reaction of protective services and the Australian Federal Police resulted in Ms Gillard losing her shoe, protesters being assaulted and pretty much everyone but the protesters looking like a bunch of dills.

EDIT: The fact that the protest was neither a “riot” nor violent is best shown in footage taken by Channel 9 (of all organisations) that clearly shows a lack of protesters anywhere near the PM as they’re evacuated.

So, in summary: the protest was non-violent, the police over-reacted and Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott still won’t listen to ordinary Australians.

UPDATE: The Tent Embassy protesters retrieved Ms. Gillard’s shoe after it came off and are planning to auction it on eBay.

UPDATE 2: Ms Gillard’s shoe is reportedly going to be used as an incentive to open dialogue with Ms Gillard about a First Nation’s treaty.

UPDATE 3: Footage from the ABC (see below) shows protesters banging on the windows of the restaurant and shouting “Shame!” and “Racist!”, which some might construe as violent. Even so, those who did bang on the windows were n the minority and it has nothing on the violence used against protesters by police (shown immediately after in the footage).

UPDATE 4: Another eyewitness account dismissing the claims of violence/a riot has been added by Mike Stuchbery:

After another 5 minutes or so, the crowd grew larger and the chants became a bit more organised and you could hear knocking on the windows. It is at this stage that a few police cars start to turn up and officers jump out and run towards the building. The police surrounded the restaurant to create a barrier, the banging on the windows stopped, and a constant chant of “always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” started up, which continued until the two were taken out of the Lobby. It was at this point that Em and John (wife and uncle) were walking around and having a look at what was going on. Now… as emphasised yesterday, Em is pregnant with twins… if there protests were in any way violent, I would have got all paternal and walked Em away. There was almost no prospect of violence.

UPDATE 5: A THIRD eyewitness account dismisses claims of a riot (courtesy Amy McQuire of Crikey):

“But while there was anger, it was far from a “riot”. A riot involves violence and a disturbing of the peace. While it was definitely a loud demonstration, there was no damage. A few smudged fingerprints on the glass of the restaurant was the net result. There were about 1000 protesters around the café when Gillard and Abbott were rushed through their own mob of security guards.”

76 thoughts on “The Tent Embassy Debacle from A Protester’s POV

  1. I get the feeling both Abbott and the media should be charged with starting this whole sorry series of events.

    I am sorry that emergency workers had their event cut short by this but I understand and agree with the anger caused by Abbott’s callous and irresponsible comments.

  2. Why would you action Julia Gillard’s shoe? That is childish and does nothing for your cause to the average Australian

  3. Actually, not sure what’s happening with it now; heard claims that it will be used to invite Ms Gillard to engage in conversation.

  4. I wrote about this on my site too. Hope you don’t mind me posting a link here.

    What happened today is the sort of protest that should greet Gillard and Abbott wherever they go. It shows you how divorced from ordinary people Gillard and her Labor Party are that instead of coming out and talking to the protesters, she got her hired goons to attack them. I guess when you don’t have any case to make for having bettered Aboriginal lives then you need to use force rather than reason.

  5. It was clear from footage on TV that there were no “protestors” anywhere near her and that what was being reported was media hysteria and hype. If Julia was traumatised at all by what occured it was her security staff who were responsible for it. How simple and intelligent it would have been on the part of the pollies to invite a couple of reps in to sit with them and engage in dialogue. Why is this option never considered by pollies or police?

  6. I hope they send the shoe back to her. It could mean good press. For great justice they could soil it first.

  7. You can twist it and cloak it in whatever words you like and whatever way you like, but the simple fact is that these protesters are disrespectful, violent, aggressive, out of control, bludgers who need to get an education, get some self respect and learn how to live in reality, where the only way to achieve something or get people to take you seriously and show you some respect, is to behave with dignity, respect, and commonsense.

    You people are SHAMEFUL! Grow up and get real jobs.

    The writer of this article needs to show some respect and commonsense as well. I’m embarrassed for you writing such utter disrespectful one sided bull.

  8. Ah, the get a job argument. Ooh, err. *swoons.

    “I’m embarrassed for you writing such utter disrespectful one sided bull.”

    The reason I wrote it was because what the mainstream media was publishing failed to show what really happened. One sided? Maybe. More accurate? Definitely.

  9. The dignity, restraint, and composure of these activists, who responded to Abbott’s racist provocation with a peaceful and appropriate protest and who have remained calm through the police violence and the lies and distortions of the press, prove that they are legitimate heirs to the heroic tradition of Australian Indigenous political activism.

    Your racist guesses that Indigenous activists are “bludgers”, “aggressive”, and in need of “education” condemn you to the gutter with Abbott.

  10. John Passant
    Oh come off it!
    Stop using the plight of the indigenous to further your political cause.
    Your man Abbott was the target of this protest, not the PM.
    Now back to the content of this story.
    I was disgusted to hear that some called her a coward, when, it was under the advice of her security that she should leave immediately.
    And what do you think the PM was doing in that restaurant sipping champagne as you like to emphasise?
    She was presenting awards to citizens who give their all to public service.
    It wasn’t an elitist gathering as you imply.
    It is not up to the PM to speak on behalf of Tony Abbott. If he made comments that raised the anger of people then it is he that should speak for himself.
    The elders should scold each & everyone of the protesters for setting the indigenous movement backwards.
    The shock jocks & every racist halfwit is going to salivate over the event.

  11. Omg you people are funny as well as very disturbed. Have you ever heard of the term in criminal law “inciting violence”. I bet the ringleader and those who took part in this shameful episode haven’t either, they may want to look that up at some stage before they engage in this stupidity again.

    In regards to this “extensive” footage: two words…..edited and 55mins…..hahaha….sure, let’s show the world what REALLY happened with 55mins of edited footage!

    The aboriginal fellow with the pole….=…..person with weapon. People, he was brandishing a weapon at the police. For those of you who don’t understand the law that means a BIG NO NO okay! Could land him up on a charge of attempted assault of a police officer with a weapon. Those idiots should consider themselves lucky if they managed to get away without being charged.

    Come on my fellow Australians, this sort of behaviour is not going to get you anywhere, it’s time to start being grateful for what you have, what is available to you, and all the endless opportunities in this beautiful safe country of ours that you can have. You need to let go of your anger and hatred, it achieves nothing and does nothing for your “cause” but earn you disrespect and pity from those of us in the community who are trying very hard daily to make this country a better place for ALL of us.

  12. Like any crowd, you get some that peacefully chant, some that are a bit aggressive but well within behavioural norms, and then you get the few who push things too far. It is the actions of these few that serves to conflate the issue and when it all goes pear-shaped, those that do the right thing get lumped in with those who make it scary for everyone else, including their fellow protesters.

    I am all for the indigenous putting forward their case, all for the tent embassy, all for solutions that provide the lasting solutions that fit with their life. But today, the actions of a few, took the advances made & set it back a little, even if it was the loss of sympathy from voters who previously backed their cause.

    No-one won today. Australia, as a whole was made to look stupid, the PM and its office, denigrated, the police and the security detail could have handled it better.

    Make your case, pursue your cause, but please have some respect for yourselves, your Prime Minister and the brave people who were being awarded medals today.

  13. It is valuable to get a report from this angle. Thank you. But three points must be made.

    1. The Prime Minister was not invited to speak to the protestors. She would not have been aware of the circumstances under which they were protesting or at whom it was directed.

    2. If she had left the gathering to do so, coming from the function to which she was invited, she would have been accused of trying to make political capital out of a fundamentally non-partisan event.

    3. Do you seriously believe eBay will allow the sale of property belonging to someone who has not given their consent?

  14. 1. That’s a direct contradiction of what I was told; surely she could have asked/listened to what they were saying.

    2. I doubt it.

    3. See the other comment above about the shoe possibly going to be used to generate dialogue.

  15. Well then you are no better than them then, because as you just admitted, yours was one sided too! So what was the point of that, you just stooped to their level as well.

    In regards to yours being more accurate……hardly! It seems to me that you are trying desperately hard to convince yourself (and the public) that these people are the innocents here, and that the govt and police are the baddies, and that there is a big conspiracy by them to show these people up as wanton troublemakers and political aggressors, when according to your reality their not, they are merely the downtrodden hard done by forgotten ones.

    Mate you wouldn’t last a second in a court room with logic like yours!

  16. the whole thing was badly mishandled by all. Of course their security was going to get them out of there – they had no way of knowing whether anyone had weapons. The police over-reacted – especially one that apparently didnt like something done to his leg or shoe lol. The security detail dragged and shoved their protectees and i wouldn’t be at all surprised to find Gillard has bruises from her treatment.
    But of course, Abbott should have kept his mouth shut in the first place, but then, where else is his foot going to fit?

  17. The police have said they don’t plan to file any charges, so I think your claim that protesters attacked police officers with poles must be classed as unlikely. I declare the myth of violent protesters to be busted.

  18. Firstly John, Julia having worked as Legal Aid lawyer knows not only the average but also poor and marginalised peoples’ concerns. And do you really imagine she made any decisions about her security. The protest was justified but not untypically went off the rails. At least the accidental threat to her may bring attention to Indigenous affairs.

  19. Went off the rails? The worst that happened was a water bottle or two was thrown at the car; hardly bloody Belfast.

  20. 1. Tony Abbott’s an idiot. A negative, unproductive and disrespectful tool. 2. The PM showed a lot of grace today – if I were the PM I would have LEFT him there to sort his own way out of the cafe. Or clarify his “move on” comment, as the “protesters” were demanding! 3. I bet that situation would NEVER have happened to Obama: I bet a few people in Protective Services are getting their arse kicked tonight!! lol

    Also.. Hi Wil. Thanks for your blog – I don’t doubt it’s possible (or even LIKELY) that some of the coppers over-reacted, or the situation might have been resolved differently if some Elders had been allowed to deliver a message or invitation to Abbott or the PM. ..but I think it’s important for organisations to acknowledge the difference between genuine ‘supporters’ of a cause, and ‘professional protesters’ – like the Occupy Melbourne “contingent” you wrote of. Aggressive, loudmouth f*ckwits do NOTHING to further genuine causes. And yes, the fact that many travelling “activists” ARE Centrelink-funded makes them even easier to loathe (and dismiss).

    You can’t STORM a place and DEMAND political people to leave the function they’re at to engage in ‘dialogue’ – particularly something as ideological and important as ‘reconciliation’! Wtfk? You can’t demand respect when you’re not showing any. Sometimes allowing ‘other contingents’ in to make up numbers will undermine the original cause, as today’s events probably did – rightfully or not.

    Keep up the good work to those that are doing it, and lose the dickheads. The Tent Embassy will live on in Canberra a lot longer than Tony Abbott’s political career! 🙂 xx I think the Tent Embassy is a very unique, living monument to indigenous Australians, an important information source for current-day campaigns and a special meeting place for genuine supporters and CONSTRUCTIVE activists.

    As discriminatory/non-inclusive as it may be, the best way to ‘engage’ with political figures is to become engaged with the political system – write formal LETTERS/emails, formally INVITE these people to give a speech or sit in on a debate, lobby the political parties, raise awareness in your local media (and other forums) and ask other genuine supporters to do the same. If you need help to do that, then ask for or find some help. Most importantly, give IDEAS. Constructive, practical ideas. If you’re not happy with current policies then feed your BETTER ideas in to the ‘system’ or lobby groups somehow. We ALL have ways we could improve the way we interact with other people! 🙂 xx

  21. You see this is EXACTLY my point of what I have no trouble proving here on this site. Most of you are illogical uneducated rednecks who only see and hear what you want to see and hear. Your all legends in your own lunchboxes on here or in your little groups, because your the only people who believe whatever you say. No-one else believes what you say because you let yourselves down with your embarrassing logic, and unfortunate ability to take someone’s words and reclassify them with totally new words of your own thrown in just for extra measure, in order to convince yourselves that “you were right all along”.

    Don’t understand what I’m saying? I’ll give you an example. You wrote that I claim that “protestors attacked police officers with poles”. Firstly, I never used the word protestors in that sentence – I used the word Aboriginal fellow which means one person only and not plural persons. Secondly, I never used the word attacked – I used the word brandishing, both are completely distinct from eachother and have totally opposite meanings. Thirdly,when I used the word pole I then translated it into it’s proper legal term which is a weapon. Fourthly, do you understand the difference between the meaning of the words “attacked” and “attempted assault”? Probably not. Go look them up and then come back and comment.

    So altogether my friend your statement is as inflammatory and exaggerated as it is erroneous. The literal meaning of what I actually wrote is “the Aboriginal fellow was brandishing a weapon at the police, which could land him on a charge of attempted assault of the police with a weapon”. Please try and take the time to read these posts slowly and clearly and have a dictionary at hand if need be, so that if you do feel the need to reply to them, then you will be able to do so with intelligence and clarity, and we can have an intelligent, informed and meaningful discussion.

    I know that it is just instinctive for you and those like you to automatically give knee jerk responses to articles that are clouded with your narrow minded one sided views on things, but you really must try and see how foolish you end up looking when you do that. Try and educate yourself first before you make these false baseless comments next time.

    I declare the myth of stupidity of protestors to be fully alive and well!

  22. The Elders need to think very carefully about the following sentence…..”time and a place people”.

  23. Congrats, Wil. You have put both the “mainstream” media and the Lib-Lab @Lawyerocracy cartel to shame with your nicely written, nicely explained report. Pity you won’t get an equal amount of “air” as “the powers that be.”

    I think that 2012 is going to be a “changing year” in the century long struggle between democracy (the will of the 99%) and debtocracy (the power of the 1%).

    I see you are a fellow Constituent of the Federal Electorate of Lalor. Hit me up. I’d like to meet you. My contact details are on this (100% ignored) letter of mine of last year to Julia Gillard –

    Warmest wishes

    James Johnson
    Independent Federal Candidate for Lalor
    Constitutional Human Rights Advocate
    Solicitor and Barrister of the High Court of Australia
    (Celebrating 20 Years of Legal Practice 1990 – 2010)

  24. I’m sorry to say that I think this has helped Tony Abbott more than anyone else. I think the guy’s a fool, but when you listen to what he said, he never demanded the Embassy be ripped down, he just suggested that it’s no longer relevant (which may be true as so many changes have occurred in the last 40 years, although I still think a presence of some type is required), and from the looks of it the protesters DID over-react.

    You can’t go around shouting and screaming, banging on windows and cars just because somebody said something which could have been seen as a throw-away (and if left alone racist, mis-guided) comment.

    This really does give the wrong impression of people who support the Embassy and what it stands for, and from looking at most online polls (the only evidence I currently have) most people do not support the protesters in this matter.

    The unfortunate thing is, this really will help Abbott: it’s made the people who took part in the protest as thugs, and unfortunately, although the minority ‘rioted’ for want of a better word, they will all be tarred with the same brush.

    We all know Abbott isn’t exactly non-racist, and we all know a considerable amount of voters in this country are the same, and this will only help him become PM, which I can’t see being a good thing for anyone.

    As I said before it could have been seen as a racist ill-advised comment which would have alienated him from the voters, but due to the reaction of some protesters, I think it’s done the opposite.

    This really hasn’t helped the Embassy, and it could be a nail in its coffin.

  25. It seems you need to read the sentences carefully in the below comment by James, especially his credentials, as that seems to be all that you give credence to. Stop with the patronizing BS please.

  26. Hi guys. Julia Gillard last week tried to kick start a referendum to remove racial discrimination from the constitution. The referendum proposal would also add clauses to help ensure respect of the language and culture of the Australian aborigines.

    For those of you fighting on the side of Australian aborigines, as far as I can tell, your boat is leaking, your paddles are broken, you’re heading in the wrong direction, and all the people who ran to the shore to try and help you ashore have started to realize there’s no helping you.

    I’m white, male, middle class. But I was brought up hippy, left, in an indian religion (atheist now). I’m as anti establishment as I can be, and have only ever voted green, then labour. If you are losing my sympathy, I can honestly tell you you have no chance.

    Australian aborigines have suffered a stolen continent, genocide, on going racism. But in the last 50 years, the Australian public have been trying to make up for that. Trying to reconcile. Trying to compensate. It’s been too slow. Too late. Too qualified. But the hand has been out. As far as I can tell, the trauma of 1788 is no longer the single dominant cause of the troubles. Some home truths need to be talked about too. Mundine, Pearson, and others are. But it’s gotta go all over.

    99% of humanity is united in disenfranchisement and suffering. Some are big enough to recognize that their own troubles are much like many others. And yes I know some have it worse than others, but “the Aussie battler” is not called a battler because they live a life of lazy luxury.

    Spew hate at me all you want. I’ll see you at the polling both next time I vote green and hope beyond hope for a better day.

  27. If you think you can threaten police with a weapon and not get charged, you’re insane. What you’re describing simply didn’t happen.

  28. “Most of you are illogical uneducated rednecks who only see and hear what you want to see and hear. Your all legends in your own lunchboxes on here or in your little groups, because your the only people who believe whatever you say.”

    My irony meter just exploded

    Wil – great article, thankyou. I have shared this far and wide (and preemptively sent it to my Dad who randomly sends me Andrew Bolt articles from time to time >.< )

  29. So, a few ‘protestors’ bang on windows and about “racist”. A woman throws herself in front of gillards car. It only takes one nut job to hurt somebody. With this type of behaviour the police did the correct thing.

  30. That was my mum who began the sit down protest on the road. I’m so proud of her, even when other blackfellas were yelling at her, she stood (well sat..) her ground until the police began to leave. That crazy copper with the spray even punched me in the boob and pushed me over when I asked him to stop pushing an elder. The police had shocking behaviour, and we’re the bad people?

  31. I like how, because a different opinion was given, this one has to be the truth…wrong. This was a disgusting display regardless of what was wanted and or who said what, childish and downright ignorant to think that an angry loud mob is an open invitation to speak to ‘the people’. Who in their right mind would? This was an angry mod with mob mentality. Nothing positive would ever have come from this. Theres a right way and wrong way, except this time the people in the wrong think they are right. They fact that further instigations like sitting on the road in protest was taken shows that people were frustrated and willing to do stupid stuff to get attention. This helps no one. This doesnt help your cause, and the way people continue acting is wrong in itself…selling Julias shoe on ebay, where does that fit into all of this, maybe another open invitation? Seriously shame on all of you!

  32. Nice to get an alternative view and a bit more context around the mainstream media reports.

    However, there is a difficulty: you said “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.”

    No matter what the chronology, chanting “Shame!” and “Racist!” as the crowd were clearly doing is not an invitation to dialogue. It is aggressive – I’m not saying it is wrong or unjustified, but it is clearly not an invitation to talk.

  33. Thanks for an illuminating article. From Canada, it’s been hard to learn the facts, but now we know the truth. Good job.

  34. The police and AFP seemed to act properly.
    The crowd was threatening with some aggressive elements.

  35. If I was in a restaurant and someone was hitting at the window yelling “racist” and “shame” I wouldn’t come out and talk to them either. I’d call the police so I could exit without being assaulted. It is threatening behaviour.

  36. You had me until the words” he reportedly bared his teeth and grinned so widely his eyes almost popped out of his head” What a load of sensationalist crap, no better than the sensationalist fervor whipped up by Kochie on sunrise. ” ignored protesters , sipped champagne and took photos of each other”? Not a huge fan of either but they were giving medals to emergency service personnel. Hyperbolic reporting of self interested hearsay that does nothing to support the cause.

  37. No Matter What the Media Chooses to Portray, This has been portrayed as a sorry bunch of Shameful folk going hog wild. The media will only go after action like sharks after chum. Your “fringe” actors gave them that. Thus shooting your own cause in the foot. Their actions represent Your cause. Even if they don’t. Thus giving the police and security services cause to act that way even in the slightest. Angry Folk with provocative acts in close proximity to the nation’s leadership cadre.ESP that nations Leader on a national Holiday (dubious or not, irrelevant now)

    What were you nuts? You thought this would get off scott free? You think you’d have even gotten the chance to get that close on any other day, let alone in the US or UK or China? Most of your supporters, ratbags and innocent alike, would be languishing in a holding cell somewhere having quiet chats with very serious folk by now for a long time.

    Control your crowds better, weed out the ratbags, and vet all actions carefully. I’m honestly amazed that protest management is so half arsed in this country that it allows agent provocateurs to slip in and set causes back.

    Sympathy? yesterday morning After what Abbot said I had. Now.. comic opera events offering to give the shoe back with conditions and jeering in the background of the video in question….

    If your cause had been genuinely sorry it would be offered back without condition. But…This makes everything look distasteful. Cheap, and yet again, Playing right into the media’s hands…

    Some folk never learn.Time to get some Indigenous folk into PR and Marketing degrees.

  38. I think people have the right to engage in dialogue with our elected officials. I just think they need to choose to go about it the right way. Banging on the windows of a function to get attention I think to be a bit inflammatory. Standing outside waiting for the function to finish and the PM and Abbott to come out and address the crowd would have been a better option. If protesters think that throwing water bottles and banging agressively on windows would not spark the response from the police when the PM and leader of the Opposition are inside is a little short sighted.
    These are the leaders of the two main parties and our PM of course they will be shrouded in massive amounts of security, there are alot of people in the country that dont wish nice things for them.
    Finally Abbott never said they should stop fighting for there rights he merely said the tent city is no longer relevent. But perhaps he should have followed up with a suggestion on what might have more effect and relevency in the future.

  39. Brianna,

    You should look up the meaning of the term ‘lateral violence’. Everything in Australia is white controlled. Why do you think Aboriginal people get so angry when a government that promises to do something, does nothing? Sound familiar? That’s because it’s been happening since Europeans arrived in our country! The inciting of violence you saw yesterday Brianna, I guess is a response to the years and years of ALL kinds of voilence suffered by my people at the hands of the wider Australian public and government/s!
    This will unfortunately now be tainted as a disgraceful act of violence perpertrated by ‘Aborigines’ against the PM and opposition leader. Please!

    Violence is and has been an AUstralian way of life for 224 odd years!

  40. …less of a kneejerk reaction to hearing Abbott was nearby and some discussion and organisation about how to go about the approach/protest in the best way might have been helpful… it would also have been helpful to have know why the pollies were at the restaurant; if so then waiting till it was finished and Abbott was leaving might have been a good move…but I wasn’t there, so am only guessing by the outcome that rational discussion didn’t take place… if it did, then it wasn’t executed in the most respectful or responsible way …. respect breeds respect …please note that I am 100% behind the Embassy and it’s ongoing right to exist…

  41. Wow. Ok, a few thoughts.

    1. The protesters (and writer) cannot seriously have believed that the PM and Abbot would exit the building and talk to them. Australia is not the Roman empire or Fascist Italy; our leaders are not in the habit of playing stentorian on the mount to the mob.

    2. On police brutality. Granted, riot police are infamous for being overzealous in their reactions, but the idea that anything presented within this article or evidence confirmed that in this instance is ridiculous. The major evidence you seem to be presenting, in chronological order:
    A – Protester pushes police officer.
    B – Officer pushes protester.
    C – Protester raises his SPEAR in a STRIKING POSTURE.

    3. On over-reaction. The leader of the country as well as the opposition leader were in a building surrounded by (by your own admission) 1000 protesters. In that scenario, security personel do not go: “Oh, all these people seem pretty angry. Hey, they’re banging on the windows and shouting. Ahh hell, they’ve yet to break into actual violence, lets give them the benefit of the doubt.” Riot police and federal security are not in the habit of relying upon a crowds better nature.

    Discussions concerning the context in which the PM and Abbot were placed have been talked to death, so i see no need to discuss it. In any case, it would be presumptuous to assume the protesters were aware of the circumstances. However, that the writer feels the protesters were somehow vindicated in interrupting an award ceremony for emergency personnel is an affront to one of the truly positive aspects of the current Australian culture, as well as an ironic lack of respect.

  42. Wil – thank you for the information from eye witnesses. Much appreciated.
    Brianna – just how close to the action were you? If, as I suspect, you viewed it on television you have been misled. Try finding the raw footage (it was available on the web).

  43. @ Nic Walmsley; thank you for putting it so well!

    At the protestors; I hear some of your own elders were advising against this. My understanding is that the tribal elders offer wise advice for the younger people to follow. This would have been a good idea. I do have sympathy for the Aboriginal people; but I have no sympathy whatsoever for bullies. To show up in a large crowd and loudly demand to be spoken to is never going to get a good result. When you choose a method that is guaranteed a negative outcome it makes me wonder what the real motive was.

  44. I have been berated by friends for showing little respect to our Prime Minister and suggesting this was a beat up, made to look bigger than it was by 1) the actions of the police and 2) the media coverage of the incident

    AND NOW, low and behold, it was the PM’s own staffer that got the ball rolling.

    How on earth can I have any respect for a Prime Minister who lies to me about the carbon tax to get my vote and then when elected (although not by majority) lies to an independent to get his support, and let’s not forget how she came to office.

    Abbot may well have disrespected Australia Day (which stands for what?) by making the comments he did, although this too has been beat up, but Gillard’s own department disrespected Australia Day (whatever it represents) for sowing the seeds that brought this on.

    This woman can NOT be trusted.

  45. I think it should be made clear that the actions of Ms Gillard’s staffer are not automatically the result of instructions from Ms Gillard or her office; I wouldn’t be surprised if the staffer was acting entirely independently. But yes, I agree with you about it being a beat up.

  46. I wouldn’t exactly call it peaceful, yelling chants and banging on windows. Not violent, but peaceful either.

  47. Chanting isn’t violent and banging on windows is so far down there on the scale of violence that I’m not even sure it counts. When Occupy Melbourne was evacuated peaceful (as in just sitting there, with arms linked) protesters had the shit kicked out of them and a small group was transported by police to a remote area and dumped; given the furore about “violence” and a “riot” at the Tent Embassy protest the logic follows that Victoria Police should have gaoled every member of the riot squad who attacked protesters in October.

  48. Yeah there’s been a lot said some rather intelligent but some downright stupid but that’s politics and all part of the fun Australians enjoy.
    But now matters have seriously deteriorated Involving children! What cowardly parent sends their kid out to burn the flag. That’s not what I’d call responsible parenting. Burn the flag yourself if that’s what turns you on, but leave the kids out of it.

  49. The most interesting perspective I have seen on this debarcle.

    The Australia day attack on Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot is a perfect comment on how Australians generally are effected by our current political leadership.

    The tent embassy ambassadors were angry with Tony Abott – the Prime Minister was drawn into the negative malestrom that resulted.

    This is exactly what we would expect when leaders such as Mr Abbott continually harp on the negative and do their best to stir up fear in the community.

    When we are in fear our brains only have three options – freeze, flight or fight. In Canberra yesterday we saw the fight response. While the perpetrators of the violence were inappropriate In their actions they were not alone. If leaders don’t want attack they need to work to create environments in which people’s brains function. This would mean the leaders upping their game. Less verbal attack , more vision, more co-operation and honesty. These things create the emotional safety that the brain needs to function strategically and in a harmonious relational capacity.

    More great stuff on her blog

  50. Well done Wil. I was there & this is pretty much what happened. Julia Gillard represents the establishment and has nothing to offer, that is why at no time she addressed or approached the Aboriginal Tent Embassy gathering. Her words at the opening of that day’s presentation in “acknowledging the traditional custodian, bla, bla…” were hypocritical. She is a hyprocrite just like Kevin Rudd & all the members of the ALP (another liberal party).

    The Aboriginal community has a lot to be angry at. The dispossession has not ended, quite the contrary it continues. As Barbara Shaw commented, the social indicators are there to confirm the continual genocide of Indigenous communities. Some people here condemn the protest & have judge it as “violent,” yet they fail to see the violence that is committed against Aboriginal people on a daily basis (hypocrites – must be ALP supporters).

    Violence! Poverty is violence, encarceration is violence, killing of Aboriginal people in custody is violence, homelessness is violence; having a police state is violence, placing asylum seekers in concentration camps is violence; being at war against a people that have never harmed us (Afghans) is violence & criminal.

    Now, they are talking of a ‘referendum’ which if accepted would change a few lines in the Constitution; this does not change the nature of the beast – more hypocrisy. We need a NEW Constitution, one that is created by a grassroots constituent assembly headed by the Traditional Owners of this land.

  51. Changing the constitution wont do anything if the society in which we live in hasn’t changed.
    You can change the government all you want but if we as individuals don’t change nothing will ever happen.

    Now in my opinion if i was surrounded by that many people banging on glass i would want to get the hell out of there as i would fear for my safety. If a hundred people came to your house and started banging on your windows what would you do? im pretty sure you wouldn’t go outside so you could talk to them….
    People saying the police were being too violent, what the hell do you expect? being in a situation like that would be rather stressful. As stated by many people there was provocation on both sides. People need to stop being so biased in their view, Everyone was in the wrong. Yes Abbot shouldn’t have made that comment but that doesn’t justify what happened.
    Also people need to stop patronizing each other.

    You say poverty is violence, yet we live in the top 2% in terms of wealth in Australia. We have it so well and the government supports those who don’t earn an income for whatever reason. Someone is dying of hunger right now in another country and instead of attempting to fix our global issues everyone seems to scream out for a change of law, or thinks that we don’t yet have enough in Australia.
    We bloody have too much, people seem to have lost their humility the world does not revolve around us, think about others once in a while you know.

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