Posted on January 26, 2012

Australian PM Dragged to Safety Through a Crowd of Aboriginal Protesters After Being Ambushed in Restaurant

Jill Reilly, Daily Mail (London), January 26, 2012

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard clung to her bodyguard as she was dragged to safety through a crowd of angry protesters in Canberra today.

Riot police formed a shield around the prime minister as they helped her force a path through the protesters who surrounded a restaurant where she was attending an awards ceremony to mark Australia Day.

Miss Gillard stumbled after losing a shoe in the scuffle, but was caught by her personal security guard and managed to get into a waiting car.

The protests appear to have been aimed primarily at opposition leader Tony Abbott, who was also in the building when some 200 demonstrators began banging on its windows, shouting ‘shame’ and ‘racist’.

Mr Abbott had angered activists earlier in the day by saying it was time the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy ’moved on’.

The embassy, a ramshackle collection of tents and shelters on the lawn of Parliament House, is at the centre of the campaign for Aboriginal sovereignty and land rights.

Demonstrators had gathered to celebrate its 40th anniversary when they heard that Mr Abbott was nearby.

Miss Gillard and Mr Abbott had been handing out inaugural National Emergency Medals, presented as the country marked Australia Day.

Dozens of extra police were called to the scene and escorted them from the building after 20 minutes.

Australia Day marks the arrival of the first fleet of British colonists in Sydney on January 26, 1788.

Many Aborigines call it Invasion Day because the land was settled without a treaty with traditional owners.

Miss Gillard was unharmed and hosted another Australia Day function at her official residence in Canberra after the incident.