Protester, 30, is charged with arson after Old Parliament House in Canberra was allegedly set alight while mob clashed with cops and chanted ‘let it burn’
- The historic Canberra building went up in flames on Thursday during a protest
- Police said a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony had got out of control
- Victorian, 30, charged with arson and damaging Commonwealth property
A man has been charged after Old Parliament House was allegedly set on fire last week.
The 30-year-old from Victoria has been charged with arson and damaging Commonwealth property and will face the ACT Magistrates court on Tuesday.
The historic Canberra building went up in flames on Thursday as protesters were heard chanting ‘let it burn’.
The maximum punishment for arson in the ACT is 15 years in jail.
Emergency services rushed to the scene to put out the flames but not before the fire had caused extensive damage
Police believe the fire most likely started when an Aboriginal smoking ceremony approved by police got out of control. Pictured: The burned building
Five fire engines and about 40 police officers attended the scene while crews extinguished the blaze, which caused no injuries.
Police investigating the incident said a traditional smoking ceremony by Indigenous rights activists had got out of control.
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a permanent protest occupation site near the building, said it had not approved the smoking ceremony and condemned violence.
The fire came just one week after a similar blaze was lit at the historic site which served as Australia’s federal parliament from 1927 until 1988.
Australia’s current Parliament House was established in 1988 on Capitol Hill a short distance away, with the historic building now used as a museum and heritage site.
After firefighters distinguished the blaze, protesters continued to clash with media crews and police, some chanting ‘long live us’ and ‘stop telling lies’.
While leaders used a megaphone to talk about Indigenous rights and colonisation, baffled onlookers recorded the plumes of smoke pouring out of the building.
A federal police forensic team was later seen examining the scorched front entrance of the building and taking samples from the fire damage
An anti-vaccination protest group has denied being responsible, insisting its members only filmed the fiasco and were not involved.
The group named Millions March Against Mandatory Vaccinations (MMAMV) Australia posted on its Facebook page that ‘mainstream media’ and Aussies online had accused it of starting the fire and refuted the allegation.
‘This claim is entirely false. MMAMV did not start this fire, neither has it ever claimed that MMAMV was responsible for the fire, nor for the organisation of the event,’ the post read.
One of the group’s leaders, Michael Simms, was attending the Aboriginal rights protest and smoking ceremony on Thursday before the fire.
He live-streamed the event, capturing dramatic footage of police trying to contain rowdy protesters on the steps of Old Parliament House as the front door burned.
His footage shows one policeman being knocked to the ground as several officers are pushed back by protesters.
‘Michael was wearing an orange vest with ‘media’ on the back, which had been given to him by First Nations representatives to indicate he had permission to film the ceremonies,’ the post read.
‘Michael has been attending these events to spend time with First Nation Elders to learn their history and traditions.’
Police manned a protest on Thursday which resulted in Old Parliament House being burned