SYDNEY: Australian officials were escorted out of a Canberra restaurant Thursday after an angry mob of protesters surrounded the building during a luncheon ceremony, police said.
The Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard and the federal opposition leader, Mr Tony Abbott were taken out of the building after a group of between 50 and 100 protesters from a nearby ceremony gathered around the building, bashing windows and brandishing sticks and rocks, according to federal police.
The prime minister was presenting medals to emergency service workers during an Australia Day celebration. In a nearby venue, a spontaneous protest erupted with an Aboriginal rights group. The group was commemorating the 40th anniversary of an Aboriginal "tent embassy."
Local media reported Ms Gillard was visibly shaken, and tripped and fell during the encounter. Photographs showed her being dragged to a waiting vehicle by her security team, losing a shoe in the process.
There were no injuries, and no arrests were made, Australian Federal Police said.
Last week, an Australian panel suggested changes to the nation's constitution to give better recognition to indigenous Australians, often referred to as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The groups have suffered at the hands of later settlers and the government they established. Australian politicians have since apologised for the past mistreatment, but Aborigines remain disadvantaged socially and economically compared with the overall population.
Explicit references to Aborigines in the original Constitution, drafted in the late 19th century, were subsequently deemed to be negative. Australians voted overwhelmingly to remove those points in a 1967 referendum, but many people say the document can be further improved to acknowledge the role of the country's indigenous population.
The panel — which included Aboriginal leaders, business executives, legal experts and members of the main political parties — handed over its report to Gillard, whose government has promised to hold a referendum on the matter by the next general election.