Police struggle as 3,000 opposing protesters clash in Melbourne’s Federation Square
THOUSANDS of protesters clashed with racists around Australia on Saturday.
The most violent incident was at Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, where police struggled to separate 3,000 opposing demonstrators.
So-called “community group” Reclaim Australia had organised rallies in 16 cities and towns around the country which it claimed were intended to show opposition to the “Islamisation” of Australian society, Islamic Sharia law and the Halal certification of meat sold in Australia.
The rightwingers condemned the cost of the certification for a Muslim minority that it claimed was less than 3 per cent of the population, characterising it as a “Halal tax” on the nation.
But they were outnumbered by thousands of leftwingers from No Room For Racism, a coalition of trade union, community and left-wing groups, in counter-demonstrations in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart.
In Sydney’s Martin Place one protester braved hostile marchers and the pouring rain to run onto a stage and grab a microphone from one of the organisers of the Reclaim Australia event, telling the racist crowd they should be “ashamed” of themselves.
Clare Fester, who organised the counter-demonstration in Sydney, warned that Reclaim Australia was racist and divisive.
“It’s quite clearly an attack on Muslims and Muslim communities in this country,” she said.
“Events like theirs incite racism and violence against Muslims.”
“Their attacks on Islam imply that anyone who is Muslim is violent, supports terrorism and is anti-woman. “This is an attempt to target all Muslims with classic racist stereotypes.”
Paramedics treated four people, three for minor injuries from assaults in Melbourne, Ambulance Victoria spokesman Paul Bentley said.
A fourth was treated for chest pains. None of the injured was taken to a hospital, he said.
Police arrested two men and a woman in the fracas in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
Victoria Police spokeswoman Belinda Batty said that the three were released later but that all would be charged.