Six arrested in torch relay in Australia

24th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

Intense security along the relay in Canberra saw minor scuffles and several people arrested.

24 April 2008

SYDNEY - Several people were arrested and minor scuffles reported between police and protesters Thursday as the beleaguered Beijing Olympic torch relay made its way under an intense security cordon along Canberra's 16-kilometre, steel-barricaded route to Commonwealth Park.

Unlike disruptions seen in Europe and the United States, the relay was smooth, with the Olympic flame continuing uninterrupted in full view of spectators, protesters and the media in a festive and noisy atmosphere.

According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio, a barrage of projectiles, including water bottles, were thrown, and some arrests were made following minor scuffles between pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators.

ACT government spokesman Jeremy Lasek told Sky News he believed there had been six arrests, but the day had been a "raging success".

Earlier, Aboriginal elder Matilda House led the welcome to country in a traditional Aboriginal smoking ceremony.

There was wide applause as the torch was lit in Canberra, and the first runner, former Young Australian of the Year and indigenous leader Tania Major, flanked by police and several Chinese flame attendants, made her way to the lake from Reconciliation Place.

The lead-up to the event was marked by a strong turnout of thousands of pro-China students from Melbourne and Sydney. Students from China make up the largest proportion of overseas students, accounting for 22 percent or 69,848, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2006.

Thousands of Chinese supporters and a small group of Tibetan protesters descended on the Australian capital and were lining the route of the torch relay, which has already made its way across Lake Burley Griffin and past Parliament House.

There was a hot-air balloon flying over central Canberra with a banner reading "Don't Torch Tibet," and a skywriter, commissioned by Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, has written "Free Tibet" in the sky above the partly cloudy capital.

Brown, who joined pro-Tibet protesters at Parliament House, told reporters, "The spiritual strength of the Tibetan people is a beacon to the whole world, and up there in the sky is something that the bosses in Beijing cannot erase."

Earlier, Tibetan protesters chanted "Shame on China" and "Human Rights for Tibet," while Chinese supporters replied with "Stop Lying," "One China Forever" and "Olympics for all".

Meanwhile, three men and a woman were arrested after flying a pro-Tibet protest flag from a building in Kings Cross, Sydney, and will face court next month.

[dpa / ANP / Expatica]

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