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Australia: PM Julia Gillard rescued after becoming trapped in a restaurant by angry protesters


Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and leader of the opposition Tony Abbott had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a restaurant by angry protesters, local media reports.

Riot police formed a shield around the prime minister as they helped her force a path through the protesters who surrounded a restaurant where she was attending an awards ceremony to mark Australia Day.

About 50 police escorted PM Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott from Canberra’s Lobby restaurant after it was surrounded by some 200 supporters of the city’s Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Julia Gillard stumbled after losing a shoe in the scuffle, but was caught by her personal security guard and managed to get into a waiting car.

About 50 police escorted PM Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott from Canberra's Lobby restaurant after it was surrounded by some 200 supporters of the city's Aboriginal Tent Embassy

About 50 police escorted PM Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott from Canberra's Lobby restaurant after it was surrounded by some 200 supporters of the city's Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Tony Abbott had reportedly angered them by suggesting it was time for the camp – marking its 40th year – to come down.

The pair had been at a ceremony for the inaugural National Emergency Medals.

The honours – presented as the country marked Australia Day – were introduced to recognize those who served their communities during events such as the 2009 bushfires in Victoria and the floods in Queensland in 2010 and 2011.

Australia’s newspapers reported that riot police were called to the restaurant at about 14:30 local time as protesters gathered outside, with people banging on the glass yelling “shame” and “racist”.

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott were reportedly forced to wait 20 minutes before police escorted them through a side door.

Chaos ensued as a bodyguard grabbed Julia Gillard by the shoulders and shoved her into a waiting car.

The prime minister appeared to have stumbled in the process and was missing a shoe. Protesters continued to bang on the car’s roof and the bonnet as it sped off.

Supporters had gathered for a three-day Corroborree for Sovereignty to mark the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy.

Media reports suggested some had been angered by Tony Abbott’s suggestion in a TV interview that it was “time to move on” from the camp in light of current plans to recognize indigenous people in the country’s constitution.

The tent embassy was established in 1972 by four men as a protest against the prime minister of the time’s refusal to acknowledge indigenous land rights.

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