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Australia: Anti-Islam protests continue

19th Jul 2015
Australia: Anti-Islam protests continue

By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE,  (AA):Hostility and anti-Islam sentiment erupted on Australian streets for a second day Sunday as rolling rallies continued across the country.

On the streets of Canberra, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and many other places, anti-racism protesters again confronted right wing Islamophobes.

The threat of violence was met with a strong uniformed police presence.

In Sydney mounted officers on horseback were forced to separate angry, screaming protestors on opposing sides.

The chanting was loud and angry echoing placards that stated: ‘Child Brides Australia Says No”; “Deport Muslims” and “Ban the Burqa a Symbol of Oppression,”

Conversely, anti-racism placards read: “Hey Racists, Go Home”; “Nazis Get Off Our Streets”; “Say No to Ignorance”.

Anti-racism activists told Anadolu Agency that in Melbourne during Saturday’s rally police had exhibited “brute force” and pepper spray was sprayed indiscriminately into the crowd.

Reports claimed that more than 100 people had required treatment.

A statement issued by the Melbourne Street Medic Collective and sent to Anadolu Agency by one of the organisers of Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, which protested under the anti racism banner, states that pepper spray was used on “an injured man who was struggling to breathe, was losing consciousness, and was awaiting an ambulance”.

Spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria, Kuranda Seyit, attended yesterday’s rally in Melbourne and told Anadolu Agency that the use of pepper spray by police was “an over-reaction.”

Seyit expressed “sadness” at the level of violence and lack of “decorum” displayed on both sides.

He said: “The message that racism isn’t cool was lost in the violence between rednecks and anti fascist anarchists.”

In Melbourne on Saturday four people were arrested, while in on Sunday there were five arrests as protesters from the anti-Muslim group “Reclaim Australia” and a counter group, under the banner “No Room for Racism,” clashed violently in Martin Place near the scene of last year’s Lindt Café siege.

No Room for Racism protester Ben Cooper told Anadolu Agency that in Sydney participant numbers were down on Melbourne, where it’s estimated the count was 10 to 1 in favour of the anti-racist combined groups.

“There was around 100 Reclaim Australia activists in Sydney and 600 of us opposing them,” Cooper said.

“As a gay man I wanted to take a stand in support of multiculturalism and say that we’re all different and we all benefit from that,” he said.

“I’m also concerned about the bigoted, extremist views of Reclaim Australia and their agenda, which is that the real Australian is white, conservative, Christian and straight.”

No Room for Racism organiser Mel Gregson told Anadolu Agency that the message that they’re trying to get across is that with racism and Islamophobia on the rise “it’s becoming dangerous, and not only for Muslims but all minority groups”.

One Nation Founder Pauline Hanson — a right-wing populist, whose strident opposition to multiculturalism has formed the bedrock of her party — addressed the Reclaim Australia rally in Rockhampton on Sunday.

She told Anadolu Agency that she is concerned about “the Islamization of Australia” and Halal certification.

“I’m anti Islam, [so] that is going to cause civil unrest in this country because of the differences in culture,” she said.

“I’m totally against Sharia Law. There is a push to bring it here. Once a population grows to a certain percentage they start demanding and getting what they want. That’s why in France there are over 740 no-go zones that police can’t enter because they’re Muslim dominated,” she claimed.

Hanson told the rally in Rockhampton: “I see divisions happening in our country and it’s purely based on Islam.

“I’m not targeting Muslims — I’m targeting the ideology, what Islam stands for — and it is very different to our culture and Christianity.

“This is a peaceful rally and the rest of Australia will see this.”

Both sides claimed victory at all events.

[Photo: Australian police use pepper spray as anti-racism and anti-Islam protesters clash during a rally in Melbourne, Australia on July 18, 2015. Hundreds of police were deployed in Western Australia on Saturday to break up violent protests near Parliament House in Melbourne after demonstrators from a right wing anti-Islam group faced off against anti-racism groups. Photographer: Recep Şakar/Anadolu Agency]

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