UPDATED 6 pm: ACT police say they have arrested and charged two more men for their alleged involvement in the fire at Old Parliament House on 30 December 2021.
A 30-year-old man from Bourke in NSW has been charged with aid/abet arson of a building, deface public property, aiding and abetting the damage of property, assaulting a frontline service worker and resisting a territory public official.
A 38-year-old man from Lindendale in NSW has been charged with assaulting a frontline service worker, obstructing a public official and breach of bail. Both men are expected to appear in the ACT Magistrates Court tomorrow morning (14 January).
5:30 pm: Several people were arrested at Parliament House after a group of protesters, believed to be linked to recent events at Old Parliament House, clashed with police at around 11 am today.
Social media posts show a violent incident as heavily armed police used pepper spray to disperse the group at the Parliament House forecourt.
Protesters carrying Aboriginal flags and signs opposing vaccination were also seen briefly outside the Lodge on Tuesday before being dispersed by police.
The protesters have been linked to the sovereign citizen movement, which argues that the Australian Government has no legitimate power over them. The group describes itself as a ‘Lore Assembly’.
Substantial damage was caused to the historic front doors of Old Parliament House on 30 December when protesters are alleged to have deliberately set fire to the building. A Victorian man, whose name has been suppressed over concerns that he may face retribution, is facing court over allegations that he moved hot coals from a ceremonial fire to the front of the building and stoked the fire.
The group has been protesting in Canberra since mid-December and are camped behind the National Rose Gardens, adjacent to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
A statement from ACT Policing said that officers and AFP Protective Service staff responded today to a group of people attempting to enter Parliament House to protest unlawfully.
“Three men and a woman were arrested at the scene. All four have been transported to the ACT Watch House”, the statement said.
The spokesperson said OC spray, also known as pepper spray, was deployed “in an effort to control the group”.
Tent Embassy occupants have been swift to deny any connections with the group, as have local traditional owners.
The Tent Embassy is marking its 50th year on the site, demanding land rights, the protection of sacred sites and compensation for stolen land. It has been recognised as the world’s longest-running continuous political protest and has heritage listing.
A statement issued by the Embassy said the smoking ceremonies being carried out by the protest group were done without the knowledge or consent of the Tent Embassy or traditional owners.
Ngambri Ngunnawal elder Matilda House-Williams and Ngunnawal language custodian Caroline Hughes, who heads the Yurauna Centre at the Canberra Institute of Technology, have also condemned the protesters’ actions.
Last week, Ms Hughes told ABC Radio that while peaceful protests were an important tool for Aboriginal people seeking change, she did not support the destruction of property. She said that to her knowledge there had been no consultation of any kind with the peak body representing local traditional owners, the United Ngunnawal Elders Council.
Posted by MMAMV Australia on Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Social media posts for the MMAMV (Millions March Against Mandatory Vaccination) indicate deep divisions regarding the protest.
“Only for white people that’s what sovereign citizens movement is all about you can google the sovereign citizens movement in USA that’s where this is coming from,” one person posted to the page.
“It has no parallel with sovereign rights and land right. It’s all about the white power movement. The Aboriginal people there are being used as token blacks. Their own people are ashamed of them.”
Many other commenters are supportive of the protesters’ actions. “You are completely wrong. These people of all nationalities stand as one with the same common goal, we have been fooled for years by these nefarious entities posing as govt. We are awake to them now and must make a stand or we are doomed as a human race”, wrote one.
The protesters also attracted initial support from Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe. In response to the fire at Old Parliament House, Senator Thorpe tweeted on 31 December: “Seems like the colonial system is burning down. Happy New Year everyone.” The tweet was quickly removed.
ACT police say that the Operation Pike joint taskforce is continuing investigations to identify other people involved in the fire at Old Parliament House and other criminal activity.
Anyone with information that could assist police in relation to criminal activity in the Parkes, ACT area is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.Please quote reference 6993036. Information can be provided anonymously.