Rival anti-Islam and anti-racism rallies saw hundreds protest across Australia at the weekend with violent clashes in Melbourne, as police officers mounted a strong presence in cities Sunday to keep the two sides apart.
About 100 anti-Islam protesters from the Reclaim Australia and United Patriots Front groups waved the national flag and yelled chants at a rally in Sydney Sunday, with signs declaring “Say no to Sharia” and “Immigration is the elephant in the room”, FMT reported.
They were met by around 250 counter-demonstrators who carried banners including “No racism, no Islamophobia”.
Police — including riot squad officers and mounted units — packed Martin Place in the heart of Sydney’s central business district to separate the rival groups.
Five people were arrested at the Sydney demonstrations, a New South Wales state police spokesman told AFP, with two expected to be charged.
There were some brief scuffles but no sign of the violence seen in sister city Melbourne on Saturday, where police had to use capsicum spray to subdue protesters.
“While there were a small number of people who chose to do the wrong thing, the majority of participants cooperated with police, which allowed for a peaceful demonstration,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Clarke said in a statement.
Reclaim Australia organisers said they were not racist but that the rallies were “a public response to the shock of recent atrocities of ‘Islam’s radicals’ both inside and outside of Australia”.
Government MP George Christensen told a Reclaim Australia demonstration in Mackay in northern Queensland state it would be naive to think his country was not at war with extreme Islam.
He added he was “sad” to see neo-Nazis at the Sydney and Melbourne rallies, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Former politician Pauline Hanson — who rose to prominence in the 1990s as head of the right-wing, anti-immigration party she co-founded — told a rally in Rockhampton in central Queensland she was “against the spread of Islam”, the ABC reported.
“We have other different religions that have never been a problem in Australia,” she said, adding: “I’m not targeting Muslims — I’m targeting the ideology, what Islam stands for.”
There were also opposing rallies in the capital Canberra, western city Perth and Tasmania’s Hobart, with the anti-racism protests attracting the same number or more participants.
Counter-protesters said some members were treated after police capsicum sprayed them.
Sue Munroe, a member of the Socialist Party, said she was attempting to hold back jostling protesters from police, but received a full blast of spray.
"We told people for months that it this would be a peaceful rally and we came here trying to help and we got hurt," Ms Monroe said.
She said Palestinian community member Mazen Adel tried to protect her, but "copped" the full brunt himself.
"These racist are like Hitler. He was allowed to go for five years and this is Hitler again. We cannot allow this," Mr Adel said.
No Room For Racism rally speaker Ezekiel Ox claimed victory, shouting: "make some noise because it is three-nil against the racists in Melbourne."
Mr Ox said a number of tactics were successfully used to stop the Reclaim Australia and United Patriots' Front rallies.
A survey conducted by the University of Queensland at the start of 2015 reported that up to 75 percent of Muslims living in Australia say anti-terrorism laws target them unfairly.. Tags: #Anti-Islam #Islamophobia #Australia #
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