Four pro Palestine protesters arrested for scaling roof of Australia’s parliament

By Peter Hobson and Alasdair Pal

CANBERRA (Reuters) -Four pro Palestine protesters were arrested for climbing the roof of Australia’s Parliament House on Thursday in a security breach condemned by lawmakers, on the same day a ruling party senator quit over the government’s stance on Palestine.

The protesters stood on the roof of the in Canberra building for around an hour, unfurling black banners including one which read “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, a common refrain of Pro Palestine protesters.

One of the protesters gave a speech using a megaphone accusing the Israeli government of war crimes, an accusation it rejects.

“We will not forget, we will not forgive and we will continue to resist,” the protester said.

Police and security advised people not to walk directly under the protest at the main entrance to the building, while more were seen on the roof attempting to remove the protesters.

The protesters packed up their banners before being led away by waiting police at around 11:30am local time (0130 GMT).

The four were arrested and charged with trespassing, and have been banned from the grounds of parliament for two years, a spokesperson for Australian Capital Territory police said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the protests.

“Those responsible should feel the full force of the law. Peaceful protest has an important place in our society, but this was not a peaceful protest,” he said.

The Speaker of Australia’s lower house Milton Dick said he had ordered an investigation into how the security breach occurred.

Fatima Payman, a senator in the ruling Labor Party, quit the party on Thursday to sit as an independent after she was suspended for voting for a motion backing Palestinian statehood.

“Witnessing our government’s indifference to the greatest injustice of our times makes me question the direction the party is taking,” she told a news conference.

Australia, which has for months called for a ceasefire in the conflict, does not currently recognise Palestinian statehood, though Foreign Minister Penny Wong said in May it could do so before a formal peace process between Israel and Palestinian authorities is complete.

Payman’s defection could make it harder for Labor, which does not have a majority in the Senate, to pass legislation.

The war in Gaza began when Hamas gunmen burst into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages back into Gaza, Israel says.

The offensive launched by Israel in retaliation has killed nearly 38,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry, and has left the heavily built-up coastal enclave in ruins.

Both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes in the early stages of the Gaza war, a U.N. inquiry found last month, saying that Israel’s actions also constituted crimes against humanity because of the immense civilian losses.

Since the war began Australia has been the site of several pro Palestine protests, including weekly demonstrations in major cities and a months-long occupation of university campuses.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson in Canberra and Alasdair Pal and Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)






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