Australian Comedians Arrested for Stunt at Bush Hotel
We’re really sorry – but we have such a hard time getting excited about reports of “terrorist plots foiled” when something like this happens –
SYDNEY (AFP) – Stars of a hit Australian comedy show, one dressed as Osama bin Laden, came within 10 metres [about 10 yards] of the hotel where US President George W. Bush was staying in a prank on Thursday, witnesses said.
Two stars of the satirical programme “The Chaser’s War on Everything” were among 11 crew members charged after the stunt, involving a fake motorcade of three black limousines flying Canadian flags in the heart of Sydney.
Surrounded by fake security men in black suits but lacking security passes for the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the pranksters managed to get past one important security checkpoint, witnesses said.
Their network said stars Julian Morrow and Chas Licciardello were filming for the programme when they were stopped a short distance from Sydney’s InterContinental Hotel, where Bush has been staying.
“They were producing a stunt, they were producing material,” said Peter Ritchie, spokesman for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “They were shooting for the programme, they were at the hotel. Police detained them and ABC lawyers and management are with the boys.”
Team members said they thought Canada would be a country that might not be too closely scrutinised and might realistically have only three cars in a motorcade.
Police said the 11 were bailed after being charged with entering a restricted area without justification under special laws that have increased police powers for the duration of the APEC meeting.
Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to discuss the president’s security arrangements but panned the stunt, rolling her eyes and deadpanning “that sounds absolutely hilarious.”
The US leader is among a long list of world leaders coming to Sydney for the APEC summit, which has been marked by protests and a security lockdown which has left large parts of the city centre fenced off.
The head of the New South Wales state police APEC investigation squad condemned the comedians.
“While it appears it was a prank, the current APEC security environment isn’t the place to do it in,” he said.
“Who they are is irrelevant — they were charged like anyone else who breaks the law.”
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer denied the stunt had revealed a chink in the intense security arrangements.
“The point is they were in any case arrested, so I think the security works,” he said.
It was not the first time the “Chaser” team has brushed with the law. Licciardello was charged with offensive conduct last year over a prank outside a rugby league match, but the charge was later thrown out in court.
On Wednesday the same team appeared at an anti-APEC protest, with a member appearing as a police officer on a pantomime horse, highlighting the fact that an outbreak of equine influenza has prevented police horses being used for security at APEC.