Anti-Islam rallies, counter-protests flare in Australia

By 12:29 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 Comments


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”.

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.

“Reclaim Australia” demonstrations were also held in April

and attracted hundreds of people who said they were

protesting against Islamic extremism.


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