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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.