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Protest against Australia Day date change sees Gabba locked down

Andrew Mathieson -

Protesters have greeted the gates of the Gabba on the second day of the Test match, only to be denied entry into the stadium by ground officials and security.

Cricket Australia had indicated an hour ahead of the scheduled first ball of the day/night clash on the public holiday that play had remained under threat of going ahead on time.

The 36,000-seat capacity stadium temporarily went into lockdown after a number of protesters were still able to make their way into the Brisbane venue.

Two of the anti-Australia Day demonstrators on Friday were handcuffed and detained by Queensland police outside of the Gabba. No charges were believed to be laid.

News reports also indicated that three noisy spectators, including a shirtless man, had initially alerted security to their actions.

They were seen shouting out, "we are on stolen land," before also adding, "always has been, always will be".

Ground officials in the end took the precaution of temporarily banning the fans from entering the popular Brisbane venue.

Several other demonstrators were watched closely by police to keep order.

The large police presence stood in front of the western entrance of the Gabba, as most fans were made to wait longer periods for entry into the ground.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley told SEN radio at the time of a number of incidents that there was a "small delay" so that police could ensure the public that safety was their paramount concern.

The security upgrades over the threats were set to affect other parts of the Test match between Australia and the West Indies.

Cricket broadcasters Fox and Channel 7 were told they could not broadcast their pre-game component of the telecast from inside the field of play, including the centre of the wicket.

All accredited media were also removed from the playing surface and was told to stay behind the boundary fence before returning after the threats were cleared.

Play of the West Indians continuing their first innings of 8-266 from Thursday night resumed on time on Friday afternoon.

But the first over was briefly interrupted after a man ran onto the ground and lied on the turf with an Aboriginal flag.

Australian players were said to arrive at the ground an hour earlier to avoid expected demonstrations blocking their path to the Gabba, but did not expect the venue to be rundown by the protests.

It was reported that some Cricket Australia employees did not wear the team uniform, but it was unclear whether or not that was to avoid detection of being associated with Cricket Australia or just for not wanting to recognise the January 26 occasion.

Cricket Australia had already been heavily criticised by some sections of the public on social media after deciding not to promote the Test for coinciding with Australia Day.

There was no mention of the term Australia Day on Friday, instead replaced by a line that recognises that the date "means different things to different people".

Earlier in the morning, the streets of Brisbane had been inundated with protesters for calling to a change of date for Australia Day, but also in a pro-Palestine march on the public holiday.

The Invasion Day combined Indigenous and non-Indigenous demonstrators marched while brandishing placards that read, "No pride in genocide".

Police said no incidents were recorded at the demonstration among the estimated 8000-strong crowd.


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