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Heated row follows Gillard melee

Authorities and indigenous-rights protesters have blamed each other for a heated clash in which bodyguards had to rush prime minister Julia Gillard out of an event marking the anniversary of British colonisation.

Ms Gillard stumbled in Thursday's fray and lost a shoe, which protesters scooped up after the rowdy demonstration in the capital Canberra.

Aboriginal-rights supporters had surrounded a restaurant and banged on its windows while Ms Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were inside at an award ceremony to mark Australia Day.

Michael Outram, national manager of protection for the Australian Federal Police, said police may file charges against some of the protesters. Ms Gillard said on Friday that she was fine, but slammed the activists' actions.

"I've got no troubles at all with peaceful protests. ... What I utterly condemn is when protests turn violent the way we saw the violence yesterday, and particularly to disrupt an event which was to honour some extraordinary Australians," she said.

Protest leaders denied doing anything wrong, accused the police of manhandling protesters and said they planned to lodge a complaint against the officers involved.

"The Australian Federal Police came at us with force and we did not retaliate with force," protest spokeswoman Selina Daveys-Newry said. "We see straight through that little puppet play."

About 200 indigenous-rights supporters marched on the nation's Parliament House on Friday, burning an Australian flag in front of a wall of police and carrying signs with messages such as "All cops are bastards". No one was hurt and the protesters left minutes later.

The restaurant where Thursday's clash occurred is close to the so-called Aboriginal Tent Embassy, where the protesters had demonstrated peacefully earlier in the day.

That long-standing, ramshackle collection of tents and temporary shelters is a centre point of protests against Australia Day, which marks the arrival of the first fleet of British colonists in Sydney on January 26, 1788. Many Aborigines call it Invasion Day because the land was settled without a treaty with traditional owners.


From Belfast Telegraph