Lines of police officers moved in to remove tents at a protesters' camp near Old Parliament House on Friday afternoon, after weeks of tensions following a demonstration which saw the historic doors of the building set alight in December.
The group have expressed ties to the sovereign citizen movement, with members saying they do not recognise authorities and often asserting that police had "no jurisdiction" over them.
Protesters had been planning to "storm" Old Parliament House on Saturday, and had called for supporters to come and support them in Canberra, in an effort to evict the Australian government and establish a so-called people's council.
A heavy police presence arrived at the National Rose Gardens early on Friday afternoon, where the campsite had been established in mid-December, with officers notifying protesters they would need to move on by Friday at 4pm.
Shortly after 4pm, officers moved in formation and began disassembling gear, bundling it into two large trucks on King George Terrace in Parkes. The protest group stood back and filmed police officers removing the equipment.
Protesters confront traditional custodians at Aboriginal Tent Embassy
Though some members of the protest group are First Nations people, they are not associated with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which has condemned their actions and expressed support for the campers being moved on.
The group gathered on the outskirts of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Friday evening, confronting traditional custodians, as police formed a blockade.
Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro said protesters were trying to use the embassy as a "convenient backdrop" for their cause.
"These people are just an insult to black Australia, because the black people in the camp have no knowledge, no history and no respect for the struggle that we fought here for 50 years," she said.
"They're now trying to use our language and throw it back at us as sovereigns, which is all wrong because they've got white people now calling themselves original sovereigns."
Discussions had been underway for at least a week about removing the protesters in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the embassy on January 26, with the National Capital Authority stepping in to issue marching orders.
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy will hold a three-day event from January 25 to mark its anniversary, to "honour and mourn our past, celebrate our survival and strategise for the next 50 years," a statement earlier this month said.
"Whatever they're doing, it's got nothing to do with the embassy, but it's a convenient backdrop for everything that they want to do," Ms Munro said.
The group paused to take a photo in front of a line of police and signage spelling out "sovereignty" outside of the embassy on Friday afternoon, with one camper calling out "photo opportunity".
National Capital Authority steps in to remove campsite
The NCA, the Australian government agency responsible for the parliamentary triangle, said it had requested police remove tents, camping infrastructure and vehicles from the site because the people did not have a permit to be there.
The agency said it had granted the Aboriginal Tent Embassy a permit to occupy the embassy space as well as the West Lawns and South Lawns for their 50th anniversary event.
"The permit covers a limited period from 9.00am, Friday 14 January 2022, to 5:00pm, Saturday 29 January 2022, for event days of 25, 26 and 27 January," an NCA statement said.
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"No other permits have been issued in relation to the East Lawns, West Lawns or South Lawns. Currently there are persons camping who do not have a permit."
"Our democracy recognises this right [to peaceful protest] which is subject to the general law and must be balanced against the rights and interests of others in the community," the authority said.
"Of paramount importance is the protection of public safety and public assets, the maintenance of the peace and fair and equal access to public areas."
The agency also said there three pieces of legislation to support protesters being moved, including the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance 1932.
In social media footage posted by protesters on Friday afternoon, police can be heard advising people in the camp it is an offence to camp on Commonwealth land without a permit under the 1932 ordinance.
The ordinance, which predates self-government in the ACT, allows the Commonwealth to remove people found to be trespassing on national land, which includes the parliamentary triangle.
The ordinance allows for those inspectors, or police officers, to arrest without a warrant anyone reasonably suspected of trespass who refuses to give their name and address.
"Any tents, caravans, vehicles and other camping equipment must be removed by 4pm or police may remove and take custody of these items," police told protesters over a loudspeaker.
Protesters say they do not recognise police authority
Bruce Shillingsworth snr, a protest leader, earlier responded to police using a megaphone, telling the officers they needed to put their request in writing to the camp.
"We are on our original land. We are not the trespassers. You are the trespassers. You have trespassed this land for 233 years. I am willing to take this to the High Court to prove that you're wrong," Mr Shillingsworth said.
"Where are your deeds and titles? Where is the bill of sale? There is no bill of sale. This land was never sold. This land was never sold ... we would ask you to leave. You're making our children scared. You are committing a crime. You are committing genocide. If you wish to speak us or contract with us, please put it in writing."
Indigenous elder Shane Mortimer, a Nyamudy-Ngambri man, was seen in video posted to social media apparently appealing to the ACT chief police officer, Neil Gaughan, to let the protesters stay.
"I'm all about being honest ... and on Saturday we plan to go through them doors," one of the protesters said in a video on social media posted in recent days.
Footage posted to social media from participants at the protest camp shows people sharing discredited information about COVID-19 vaccinations and views in common with the sovereign citizen movement.
A man from the group who identified himself as Jeffrey, a Darumbal-Gungulu man from Central Queensland, said he was a "sovereign national" and when asked about the groups anti-vaccination sentiment said they were "pro-choice".
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