Australian Police Rescue PM from Unruly Crowd

Posted January 26th, 2012 at 11:20 am (UTC-5)
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Riot police in the Australian capital moved in Thursday to rescue Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott from a crowd of unruly protesters who were supporting indigenous rights.

Photographs and television footage show plainclothes security personnel clutching the prime minister as they pulled her away from a Canberra restaurant surrounded by protesters — some of whom pounded on restaurant windows as she presided over an awards ceremony attended by Abbot.

Police say Ms. Gillard was shaken by the incident but was not hurt.

The demonstrators had been gathered near Canberra's ramshackle collection of tents and temporary shelters — know as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy — in a rights protest. The demonstration was aimed at countering Thursday's national commemoration of Australia Day.

The reports say Abbot's earlier criticism of the makeshift embassy appeared to have riled the protesters.

Australia Day celebrates the arrival of the first British colonists to the continent in 1788. Many aboriginals refer to it as “Invasion Day,” because the land was settled without a treaty with indigenous peoples.