4 February 2022

UPDATED: Man arrested after loaded, modified firearm found at 'freedom' protest camp

| Max O'Driscoll and James Coleman
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Modified rifle

The loaded, modified rifle was found this morning while police were investigating a truck at the protest camp. Photo: ACT Policing.

UPDATED 1:45 pm: A 44-year-old man has been arrested following the execution of a search warrant at the Patrick White Lawns near the National Library of Australia.

In a statement released this afternoon (4 February), ACT Policing said they discovered a loaded, modified rifle in a vehicle while clearing out an unapproved protest camp on the lawns.

“The man is expected to be charged with the possession of an illegal firearm. He will also face multiple traffic offences in relation to the roadworthiness of his vehicle.”

A vaccine and mask mandate protest group calling itself the ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’ has been camped illegally on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin since Monday.

ACT Policing, with additional resources from the Australian Federal Police, began moving on the group this morning and have now successfully moved camping equipment and illegally parked vehicles from the Patrick White Lawns.

The operation was peaceful and no arrests were made in relation to crowd behaviour.

Four vehicles were towed from the location after their owners refused to move them. A small amount of camping and other equipment was also seized by police.

ACT Policing thanked the community for their patience while multiple road closures and diversions were in place today. Due to planned and unplanned events in the area, traffic disruptions may continue to occur in the Parliamentary Triangle area in the coming days.

While ACT Policing recognises the rights of people to peacefully protest, they said when illegal actions take place the people responsible will be dealt with in accordance with the law.

Convoy to Canberra protest

A car being towed away from the Patrick White Lawns this morning. Photo: James Coleman.

UPDATED 11:15 am: Police are in the process of clearing protestors from the Patrick White Lawns behind the National Library of Australia.

Officers for ACT Policing and Australian Federal Police are advancing on vaccine and mask mandate protestors for camping without approval on national land, in accordance with existing legislation.

A spokesperson for ACT Policing said the process is moving faster than expected and will be wrapped up by the end of the day.

“So far, no arrests have been made and most protestors are leaving peacefully.”

Several cars have been towed from the site after their owners refused to move them. Unattended camping items are being seized.

One woman sat on the bonnet of a car as it was being loaded onto a tow truck before police officers forcibly removed her.

Convoy to Canberra protest

Police advancing on the protestors. Photo: James Coleman.

Police are also investigating a large truck at the site.

During announcements over a PA system, ACT Policing stressed that while peaceful protesting within the Parliamentary Triangle is allowed, camping and parking without authority is not.

Protestors are being urged to visit the ACT Policing website where a list of suitable campgrounds in the area have been identified.

Some protestors are playing music such as ‘I am Australian’ and ‘The Imperial March’ from Star Wars over speaker systems while yelling and chanting at police officers.

Most of the protestors are believed to be relocating to the campground at the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).

Convoy to Canberra protest

Police have closed several roads around the Parliamentary Triangle as protestors leave. Photo: James Coleman.

A rally is planned for outside Parliament House when Parliament sits for the first time this year on Tuesday (8 February).

The spokesperson for ACT Policing said they would be happy to continue facilitating the group’s right to peacefully and democratically protest, but “we can’t have people camping and parking on the grounds”.

Several roads around the area are closed. ACT Policing are advising workers and visitors to the Parliamentary Triangle precinct that protest activity is ongoing and disruptions are expected to continue into next week.

Canberra protesters

Convoy to Canberra protesters camp beside NLA. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 8:45 am: ACT Policing has now begun clearing protestors from the Patrick White Lawns, behind the National Library of Australia.

The National Capital Authority on Wednesday (2 February) asked ACT Policing to enforce laws prohibiting illegal camping and parking at the lawns.

By that afternoon, police had met with campers telling them, both verbally and with printed material, that they were in breach of legislation.

READ MORE Police to move on COVID-19 protest camp ‘in the coming days’

Yesterday, police again warned campers to clear the area.

This morning, police have moved into the area and are ordering camping equipment and vehicles be moved from the site.

Police are urging compliance with their instructions and have warned that they will seize all unmoved items.

ACT Policing stressed that while peaceful protesting within the Parliamentary Triangle is allowed, camping and parking without authority is not.

More to come.

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It is time that those anti-vaxers who do not have medical issues associated with vaccines, were made to contribute towards their hospital costs if they end up there with Covid. These people are putting extra strain on the hospital system, health workers and doctors (including within my own family) and taking spots that people who are trying to do the right thing require. The “Freedom Convoy” is quite free to move on now that it has increased costs for ordinary Canberrans.

Finagen_Freeman1:40 pm 04 Feb 22

I do respect the message of those protesting. Mandating a vaccine is like mandating overweight people must diet.

There are attributes to human lives which are not conducive to force.

I praise those who are moving on peacefully and who plan to rally outside parliament when sitting returns.

100% respect.

Except that it’s the unvaccinated who are driving deaths, of themselves but also overburdening hospitals and leading to not-covid related deaths, so it’s only “like mandating overweight people must diet” if those overweight people were trying to crowd-surf in nursing homes.

It is nothing like mandating diets for overweight people. What planet do you come from?

If camping is not allowed in this area then the Aboriginal tent protest in front of old Parliament house should also be moved on. It is racism to apply the law differently depending on the race of the protester.

Depends what is going to get them reelected.

The original group should have been moved on after a week or so.

The Aboriginal tent Embassy serves as a symbol and raises awareness of the continuing injustices suffered by Indigenous Australians – high incarceration rates, intergenerational trauma, deaths in custody etc. I think the last person who was brave enough to take on the Embassy was Wilson “Ironbar” Tuckey. He didn’t earn that nickname for nothing!! There was an Ironbar tavern in Philip named after him and owned by 3 Canberra lawyers in the early 90’s which was a regular haunt of mine. I remember pictures of Ironbar on the entry wall signed by him. He was a total racist and proud of it!

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