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Old Parliament House fire ‘deliberately lit’

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The video goes against suggestions the fire began as a smoking ceremony, with one demonstrator seen throwing kindling at the blaze, and others covering CCTV cameras at the building with paint.Protesters had been gathering outside the building ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy when the fire broke out on Thursday.Initially believed to have been a smoking ceremony, the blaze engulfed the heritage doors and front face of the building as protesters clashed with police.The Australian Federal Police this afternoon announced it had established a joint taskforce with ACT Policing to identify protesters responsible for the fire. Taskforce Pike will include members from the AFP’s Special Investigations Command and detectives from ACT Policing. “(The taskforce) underscores the zero tolerance authorities have for violence, destruction of property and assaulting police,” a statement from the AFP read.“Those who break the law will be arrested and charged.”It’s unsure whether the damaged part of the building can be saved at this stage.Following the incident, Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced the conduct of those involved, and called for a quick investigation.“I’m disgusted and appalled by the behaviour that would see Australians come and set fire to such a symbol of democracy in this country,” he said.“Their cause doesn’t justify that sort of violence. That’s not how Australia works. We have a rule of law in this country and people should obey it.”An official statement made by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy said that the actions of protesters was “done so without the knowledge, consent or mandate of the Embassy Council and Traditional Owners responsible for the regulation of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.”“The Aboriginal Tent Embassy does not condone the actions of protesters who occupied the steps of Old Parliament House,” the statement read.“Although we support the concept of nonviolent direct action, we do not condone the destruction of public and private property.” PROTEST CONTINUES AFTER FIREProtesters have returned to stand outside Old Parliament House on Friday after the historic building’s entry caught fire on Thursday.Dozens of protesters braved Friday’s summer heat to gather again at the steps of the building as Australian Federal Police officers surveyed the damage to the front facade, which caught alight about 11.30am on December 30.Several AFP officers were seen investigating the scene, including the charred roof and smashed front doors. It comes as ongoing protests have been held outside the heritage-listed building in the past week, with activists daubing the front entrance with handprints before the fire began.Protesters have been gathering outside the building ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy but the organisation has distanced itself following the fire.Social media footage showed police dragging protesters away from the front steps of the building and a large fire burning at the doors.The source of Thursday’s blaze is still being investigated by ACT Police, who began their probe once the flames were put out, noting while there were no injuries there was “extensive water damage” to the historic structure.It is the second time Old Parliament House has caught fire in two weeks after a ceremonial fire lit by activists scorched the front door on December 21.Got a news tip? Email weekendtele@news.com.auNED-5192-DT-App-Banner



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