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Protesters occupy entrance to Parliament House, chant ‘Free Palestine’

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27 January 2024, Canberra Times, by Bageshri Savyasachi

Protest leaders stormed towards Parliament House on Friday morning to occupy the entrance, mark January 26 as “Sovereignty Day” and demand a “free Palestine”.

Police grabbed a couple of frontline activists to stop them from approaching the building but were unsuccessful as they continued running towards the entrance.

Hundreds of demonstrators walked behind the leaders, while police rushed to form a human barricade at the forecourt.

Officers lined up outside the doors to Parliament and watched as protesters sat down and listened to activists speak.

ACT Policing said no arrests were made and estimated 600 people had been part of the crowd.

Onlookers and tourists on Capital Hill stopped to take notice of the protesters. It was one of a number of “Invasion Day” and “Survival Day” rallies around the country.

On the same day, in 2012, then prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were evacuated from the Lobby restaurant (now Koto) when protesters from 40th anniversary celebrations of the Tent Embassy marched on the restaurant.

The incident made headlines as Ms Gillard, rushed out by a bodyguard, lost her blue suede shoe in the melee.

The annual rally in Canberra, organised by the Tent Embassy, looked and sounded much different this year. The 2023 rally, led by organiser Leah House, expressed disapproval of the proposed Voice to Parliament.

She led marchers again this year while they raised Aboriginal and Palestinian flags side by side from Garema Place to their final destination at the Tent Embassy.

Ms House said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were using the day to amplify Palestinian voices. She added there were fewer people compared with the previous year because people had travelled to Sydney to march in the joint rally there.

Ms House is vice-president of the Black Peoples Union and the granddaughter of Ngambri and Ngunnawal elder Dr Matilda House, who welcomed protesters to the rally.

“The world is different right now as opposed to every other year, while what’s going on in Palestine is not new, it’s been going on for 75 years, but the brutality of what we’re seeing now is different,” Leah House said.

“We use the one day a year that we get the national coverage and we get attention from the rest of this landmass.

“We, across every major city, have decided to collaborate with the Palestinian organisers to amplify the Palestinian struggle because we recognise our collective struggle across the globe, in terms of Indigenous resistance and Indigenous-led resistance and our common enemy being imperialist, illegal, colonial occupations.”

As protesters marched to Parliament, they raised slogans demanding land rights. They also chanted “no pride in genocide,” “shame shame Israel”, “shame shame Australia”, “free free Gaza,” and “free free West Papua”.

Alia Elna attended the rally with her children aged seven and six. She said her family escaped their Palestinian homes during the 1948 Nakba.

Ms Elna was sombre about never having known her motherland. She said Palestinians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had similar experiences.

“They suffer we suffer, it’s the same thing … I feel like they’re talking on our behalf today,” Ms Elna said.

“I’m trying to teach my children how Palestine was taken over by Israel. This is the best age for them to learn what’s going on.”

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Article source: Canberra Times/ Bageshri Savyasachi/27.1.2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000