Refugee activists cause chaos in Australian parliament
Parliament forced to shut down as angry group glues hands to gallery rails and yells opposition to country's refugee policy
Australia's parliament was brought to a standstill Wednesday afternoon when refugee activists chanting slogans from the public gallery had to be forcibly removed.
Chaotic scenes ensued as police and security guards dragged around 50 people in total, from the chamber and the Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, took the unusual step of adjourning parliamentary proceedings for 40 minutes until the room was clear.
Smith described the incident as “extraordinary scenes” that “threatened the dignity of the house”.
The ABC reported that some protesters had superglued their hands to rails in the public gallery.
Activists -- shouting “close the camps” and “bring them here” -- were voicing objection to the country's immigration policy, which brands asylum seekers who travel by boat “illegal”, detains them on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus and prohibits them from entering Australia.
“This is a state of emergency. This is a humanitarian crisis. You are all complicit,” one protester chanted in the chamber.
The ABC reported that activists from the Whistleblowers Activists and Citizens Alliance had claimed responsibility for the protest.
In a statement, a spokeswoman said protesters came to parliament to tell the government to "stop the madness" and close the asylum seeker processing centers on Nauru and Manus.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, talking on radio 2GB on Wednesday afternoon, referred to the protesters as “idiots”.
“The Greens have a lot to apologize for,” he stated, referring to the political party whose leaders were seen to greet the protesters after the event.
“I see they are out there tweeting at the moment saying how great this was, but I think for most Australians, for hardworking taxpayers, they would be pretty angry about these scenes today and rightly so,” Dutton said.
“This Government’s message is very clear on boats -- we are not going to allow people to settle in our country that seek to come here by boat.”
Police said in a statement that a number of people had been spoken to with regard to the incident, but no charges had been laid.