There was a nasty surprise for Australia’s prime minister and leader of the opposition who chose to celebrate Australia’s national public holiday at an awards ceremony in a Canberra restaurant.
But a crowd of protesters got wind of the event and some 200 supporters of indigenous rights came from the nearby Aboriginal Tent Assembly, a gathering to protest against the official Australia Day they dub “Invasion Day”. The Assembly is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Australia Day commemorates the day in 1788 when the first British colonists arrived.
It appears the opposition leader Tony Abbott was the protester’s target, as he had earlier made comments saying that the tented camp should be evicted and that it was time the Assembly “moved on”.
Taking him at his word they did, and moved on the restaurant so forcefully that Prime Minister Julia Gillard lost a shoe in the melee as security tried to evacuate her.
She was unhurt and later went on to host a reception for foreign ambassadors. Windows were broken at the awards venue as scuffles briefly intensified during and after her and Abbott’s escape.