A large number of police officers remain stationed outside Canberra’s Old Parliament House on Saturday despite people failing to show for a planned protest.
A day earlier, at least 200 officers moved to clear a camp from the parkland in front of the Parliament-turned-museum set up by the protesters who have been protesting on front of the building for two weeks, saying that the group was in breach of Commonwealth law for illegally camping on Commonwealth land.
Officers, including search and rescue staff with power tools, dismantled tents, removed personal belongings and fixed structures from the site, bundling them into trucks.
Some protesters followed the police’s request to move on, dismantling their own tents.
But elsewhere, tense confrontations took place between some officers and protesters as items were removed, with demonstrators seen yelling “shame on you” at the evicting officers.
After the tents were removed, demonstrators continued to surround the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy and said that the embassy members were “sellouts.”
Tent embassy staff were then seen shouting back at the protesters.
An ACT Police spokesman confirmed in a media statement that two people were arrested at the scene—one for breach of bail and one for obstructing a public official.
“Today’s actions don’t prohibit any person peacefully protesting if they wish. However, without the approval of the National Capital Authority, no persons will be allowed to camp or park on the grounds in front and surrounding Old Parliament House,” the statement read.
“While the operation is ongoing, ACT Policing is asking the ACT community to avoid the area if possible. Further information will be provided once the operation is complete.”
The Lore Not Law group, with “lore” referring to Indigenous law typically passed by word of mouth, has participated in ongoing protests since Dec. 29, issuing the federal government “eviction notices” at Canberra landmarks including Old Parliament House and The Lodge.
The group has been demanding sovereignty as well as refusing to recognise Australian law, with some opposing COVID-19 vaccinations.
Aboriginal Tent Embassy representatives have rejected links to the group, accusing the protesters of breeding a “cult-like mentality.”
Members of the protest group have been linked to a fire at Old Parliament House on Dec. 30, 2021, which captured the nation’s attention.
Police officers arrested Bruce Shillingsworth Jr. and Dylan Wilson on Thursday for their alleged involvement in the fire. Both men denied the charges and were later granted bail.
Appearing in court on Friday, Shillingsworth—who was named the ringleader by the magistrate—said he was trying to diffuse the situation, persuading the protesters not to go ahead.
Shillingsworth told the magistrate his first night in prison, following his arrest on Thursday and bail on Friday, gave him time to reflect on the situation.