14 January 2022

Protest 'ringleader' allegedly involved in fire at Old Parliament House

| Albert McKnight
Bruce Shillingsworth Jr leaving court

Bruce Shillingsworth Jr, 30, leaves court after being bailed on charges relating to the fire at Old Parliament House. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Three of those arrested at the protest at Parliament House on Thursday (13 January) that appear to be tied to the ‘sovereign citizen’ movement have appeared in court, which disintegrated into a chaotic morning, particularly when an alleged ringleader applied for bail.

Bruce Shillingsworth Jr, 30, who a magistrate said is accused of being “one of the ringleaders” of the movement, is facing several charges, including that he helped the person accused of moving hot coals from a ceremonial fire to the front of the Old Parliament House when a fire began there on 30 December 2021.

Court documents allege when this person was moving the coals, Mr Shillingsworth stood near the building’s doors and appeared to coordinate people to make way for them.

When police attempted to reach the fire at the doors to put it out, protesters blocked their path and Mr Shillingsworth allegedly repeatedly yelled at them to “hold”.

The fire grew to engulf the entire portico and social media footage showed a number of items had been added to fuel it, including sticks, chairs and a couch that had been on the portico.

READ ALSO Sex, porn and abuse: How ACT Education Directorate tried to keep teacher misconduct investigations secret

As it burnt, police allege Mr Shillingsworth yelled through a megaphone, “I gave you mob a notice, you didn’t listen, what part of eviction notice don’t you understand?”

“All we asked you mob was to open that door and I told you that door would be open one way or another,” he allegedly said.

During a protest on Wednesday, he and a small group of protesters allegedly tried to serve eviction papers to the Prime Minister’s Lodge. He was arrested at the Parliament House protest the next day.

Several people came into the courtroom to support him and sometimes interrupted the proceedings, including yelling “objection” while the court discussed Mr Shillingsworth’s name.

“It’s not like on television when someone can jump up and say ‘objection’,” Magistrate Beth Campbell told them.

When she was discussing bail conditions, the supporters again began to shout, with a person who identified as his father yelling “you’re signing a contract” and saying his son was under his jurisdiction.

READ ALSO Innocent woman hit after businessman threw a glass in a bar in a ‘moment of madness’

“Can we prove to you that he’s under his father’s jurisdiction?” a supporter asked.

“No,” Magistrate Campbell replied.

Mr Shillingsworth, who is from Burke, pleaded not guilty to charges including aiding and abetting a person to cause damage to a building by fire, aiding and abetting a person in the damaging of Commonwealth property and assaulting a frontline community service provider.

He was granted bail with conditions including that he lives in Sydney, not be in the suburb of Parkes, not have any contact with the person accused of starting the Old Parliament House fire, and not publish information on social media about the protests at the building.

He will appear in court again in the future.

Dylan Wilson

Dylan Wilson, 38, from Lindendale in NSW, was bailed in court on Friday. Photo: Facebook

After charging 38-year-old Dylan Wilson with assaulting a frontline community service provider and resisting a Territory public official over alleged incidents on 30 December, Magistrate Campbell asked if he wanted legal advice.

“I can’t find any evidence of legal jurisdiction, so no,” he replied.

He later said, “I’m still waiting for evidence of national sovereignty”.

Mr Wilson appeared over audiovisual link and interrupted the magistrate at times until he had his microphone turned off.

Court documents alleged when there was the fire at Old Parliament House, Mr Wilson put himself between it and police trying to put it out.

However, Magistrate Campbell said no evidence had been provided about the alleged assault.

She said it appeared police provided a statement of facts to the court without reading it to ensure it reflected the charges and she could not refuse bail in those circumstances.

Bail was granted and his case was adjourned to 23 February. His bail conditions included he not be in the suburb of Parkes. He did not enter pleas.

Two women leaving court

“Karen”, who police have been unable to officially identify, leaves court on Thursday with a supporter. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A woman who was also part of Thursday’s protest appeared in the Magistrates Court that afternoon.

Police were unable to officially identify her and she only gave her first name as “Karen” when she appeared in court.

Court documents said when police arrested a man at the day’s protest, other members, including Karen, became hostile towards them and tried to break through their line to the Parliament House entrance.

The documents say she would not move to the building’s forecourt, remained hostile and police arrested her for breaching the peace.

READ ALSO Knife-wielding man sentenced for robbing his local pharmacy twice

When Karen appeared before Magistrate James Stewart, she told him, “I’m under protection of First Nations People and I have sovereignty”.

“Sovereignty over who?” he asked.

“Over myself and my actions,” she replied.

Karen was able to be released from custody if she agreed not to breach the peace, so Magistrate Stewart asked her whether she would.

“I will not try to barge through the police next time,” she said, although she added she would continue to support her people.

He said he thought he needed to identify her, but she would not provide her full name.

“I’m under sovereignty now so I don’t go by the corporation name that you have for me,” she said.

Magistrate Stewart decided to release her only knowing her first name and urged her to not get arrested again.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.