“We are gathered here to support the 33 people who were arrested two weeks ago for defending the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy in Musgrave Park,” Murri community leader Sam Watson told a rally outside the Magistrates Court on May 31. “Aboriginal people and their supporters were merely exercising their traditional rights in protecting the sacred fire in the park.
“These rights are guaranteed by state and federal law. The raid by more than 200 police was a return to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era by the Newman LNP government, harshly suppressing Aboriginal and democratic rights of citizens.
“We will continue to maintain the Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy at the top end of Musgrave Park," Watson said. "We will vigorously defend the charges, and assert our right to continue with the embassy.
“This is an absolute clash of two legal systems. At the same time as we are about to celebrate Mabo Day, the official legal system moves in to suppress Aboriginal traditional activities.
“We are grateful for the support of non-Indigenous people who stood beside us from the start of the original Canberra Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 until now. A number were arrested at Musgrave Park on May 16, including trade union members.
“The backing of unions has been important for our whole struggle for Aboriginal rights.”
Most of the charges, including obstructing police and resisting arrest, were adjourned to a later date. Activist Jaime Pineda told Green Left Weekly: “We acted out of solidarity with the cause of Aboriginal rights. We intend to fight the charges all the way.”