Anti-Islam rallies, counter-protests flare in Australia
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 â€œSay no to Shariaâ€ and â€œImmigration is the
elephant in the roomâ€.
They were met by around 250 counter-demonstrators who
carried banners including â€œNo racism, no Islamophobiaâ€.
Police â€” including riot squad officers and mounted units â€”
packed Martin Place in the heart of Sydneyâ€™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.
â€œWhile 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,â€
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Clarke said in a
Reclaim Australia organisers said they were not racist but
that the rallies were â€œa public response to the shock of
recent atrocities of â€˜Islamâ€™s radicalsâ€™ both inside and
outside of Australiaâ€.
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 â€œsadâ€ to see neo-Nazis at the Sydney and
Melbourne rallies, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Former politician Pauline Hanson â€” who rose to
prominence in the 1990s as head of the right-wing, anti-
immigration party she co-founded â€” told a rally in
Rockhampton in central Queensland she was â€œagainst the
spread of Islamâ€, the ABC reported.
â€œWe have other different religions that have never been a
problem in Australia,â€ she said, adding: â€œIâ€™m not targeting
Muslims â€” Iâ€™m targeting the ideology, what Islam stands
There were also opposing rallies in the capital Canberra,
western city Perth and Tasmaniaâ€™s Hobart, with the anti-
racism protests attracting the same number or more
â€œReclaim Australiaâ€ demonstrations were also held in April
and attracted hundreds of people who said they were
protesting against Islamic extremism.
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