Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was targeted with tomatoes and fake blood, and his car was vandalized by protesters during a visit to the University of Queensland on Monday, CNN affiliates 9 News and 7 News reported.
Morrison was visiting the university’s vaccine development center, where work on a Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing, when he was targeted by protesters who doused his car and a building in red liquid, CNN affiliate 7 news reported.
Morrison was escorted from the protest after becoming trapped in a campus building, while protesters – who were demonstrating to raise awareness of Australia’s refugee detention – threw red paint and tomatoes, according to CNN affiliate 9 News.
Protesters from the Refugee Solidarity Meanjin community group said in a statement that they were protesting the detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Australian immigration custody.
“We were there to protest the indefinite detention of people just looking for a safe place to live,” a spokesperson for Refugee Solidarity Meanjin told CNN.
“Yes we stalked the Prime Minister, yes we waited until he got in the building and then locked him in, yes we threw blood on his car, across the doors of the building, and threw blood-covered tomatoes and brussels sprouts at his head as he fled through the back door,” the group said in a statement posted to Facebook.
“Get it right: people in cages are begging to be released after eight years and every day that he doesn’t free them he is breaking international human rights law,” the group said.
Professor Deborah Terry, University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor, told CNN in a statement that the university “respects freedom of speech and the right to protest on our campuses.”
“We were disappointed, however, at the vandalism that marred the Prime Minister’s visit to the UQ lab developing a vaccine for Covid-19,” Terry added.
Morrison addressed the incident at a press conference on Monday. “I was there today today to be briefed on, to see and to say thank you to the amazing Queensland scientists and researchers who are developing the vaccine at the University of Queensland,” he said.
“I thought it was unfortunate that what they’re doing was disrespected in that way today,” he added.
Australia has come under fire for its immigration policies and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
Conditions in detention centers on the remote islands of Manus in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru in the Pacific have been described by the United Nations as “harsh” and “inadequate,” while Amnesty International called Nauru an “open-air prison.”
Meanwhile, other facilities, such as Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point hotel, thought to hold some 120 men, have been the center of protests.