Protesters “shut down Melbourne" to fight against closure of Aboriginal communities
More than a thousand protesters shut down traffic in Melbourne's CBD to rally against the planned closure of remote Indigenous communities in West Australia.
The group had hoped to confront Tony Abbott at the National Gallery, where he had been rumoured to be dining on Friday night.
Mr Abbott has come under fire since he said it was a "lifestyle choice" to live in remote Indigenous communities.
He made the comments on Tuesday while backing the West Australian government's plan to close up to 150 of the communities.
After giving up on seeing Mr Abbott at about 6pm, the swarm of angry protesters walked up from the gallery to the State Library waving Aboriginal flags and chanting "shame, Abbott, shame".
About half-a-dozen tram routes were disrupted and a number of roads closed as they made their way up Swanston Street.
Organiser Meriki Onus, from group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, said she set up a Facebook page promoting the protest on Thursday because she was angry at the proposed closures and Mr Abbott's comments.
"They're our most vulnerable group within Australia," she said.
"None of what they do or their lifestyle is a choice. I can imagine that they are still close to their traditional lifestyles.
"They're been doing it since the first sunrise."
Ms Onus said the group's intention was to "shut down Melbourne in response to shutting down the communities".
"It was fired up. It was a loud march," she said.
"This is only just the beginning."
Ms Onus said Indigenous groups in WA were predicting there would be 20,000 refugees if the communities were closed.
She called images posted on social media on Friday night purporting police attempting to close the newly set up Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth's Heirisson Island "disgusting".
"They're all homeless people that live there," she said.
"That council are evicting homeless women and children from that embassy. It's a refuge."
City of Perth chief executive Gary Stevenson said, on Wednesday, the campers would be evicted if they did not leave the island.
Weeks of protests were held on Heirisson Island in 2012 after a group of Aboriginal activists objected to the WA government's $1.3 billion native title offer to the Nyoongar people.
A Victoria Police spokesman said there were no incidents with the protesters in Melbourne.