World | Australia

Sydney hit by second night of race violence

Gangs of youths attack people with baseball bats, vandalised cars and had running skirmishes with police.

  • Agencies
  • Published: 00:00 December 12, 2005
  • Gulf News

Sydney: A second night of unrest in Australia's biggest city Sydney left seven people injured and dozens of cars damaged in apparent reprisal for racial violence on a city beach at the weekend, police said on Tuesday.

Gangs of youths, mainly Muslim and from Middle East backgrounds, attacked several people with baseball bats, vandalised cars and had running skirmishes with police, they said.

At one beach, Maroubra, police said they found 30 Molotov cocktails and crates of rocks stockpiled on rooftops along the beach's main road.

"Eleven men were arrested and seven people, including a police officer, were injured in a second night of unrest," police said on Tuesday.

Racial violence erupted at Sydney's Cronulla Beach on Sunday when some 5,000 people, some yelling racist chants, attacked youths of Middle Eastern background.

Drunk and angry mobs of youths, some wrapped in Australian flags, said they were defending their beach after lifesavers were attacked there last week. They believe the attackers were of Lebanese background.

Police said white supremacists had incited the Cronulla crowd to violence.

Sydney's Lebanese youths struck back on Sunday night, smashing cars, assaulting people and fighting police in several different suburbs.

On Monday night hundreds of Muslims staged an angry standoff with police outside Sydney's main mosque at Lakemba in the city's western suburbs.

Up to 25 cars with youths then drove to Cronulla and used baseball bats to damage cars and smash windows, police said.

One man suffered head injuries after being attacked at a youth hostel, while another suffered broken ribs and head injuries after he was attacked while putting out his garbage bins.

Local media reported that mobile telephone text messages circulating amongst Muslim youths were calling for payback for the violence on Sunday.

 Prime Minister John Howard has called for ethnic and religious tolerance on Monday one day after racial violence against Arab youths erupted in parts of Sydney.

"Mob violence is always sickening and always to be unconditionally condemned," Howard told a news conference.

"Attacking people on the basis of race and ethnicity is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians, irrespective of background and politics," he said.

"It is important that we reaffirm our respect for freedom of religion in this country, but it is also important that we place greater emphasis on integration of people into the broader community and the avoidance of tribalism."
 
Racial violence erupted in Sydney on  Sunday after thousands of white youths, many chanting racial slurs, clashed with police and attacked people of Middle Eastern origin at Cronulla beach.

In TV broadcasts, the rioters overwhelmingly were young white men.

Many carried beer bottles, waved Australian flags and chanted anti-Middle Eastern slogans in response to reports that youths of Lebanese ancestry were responsible for an attack last weekend on two of the beach's life guards.

One white teenager had the words "We grew here, you flew here" painted on his back. On the beach, someone had written "100 per cent Aussie pride" in the sand.

Two paramedics in an ambulance were injured as they tried to get youths of Middle Eastern appearance out of the Cronulla Surf Lifesaving Club, where they had fled to escape one mob.

The mob broke the vehicle's windows and kicked its doors as the paramedics tried to get the group out.

By last night, violence had spread to a second beach, Maroubra, where men armed with baseball bats smashed cars. As the crowd moved along the beach and foreshore, one man on the back of a truck shouted: "No more Lebs [Lebanese]" a chant picked up by the group around him.

"This is Australia, if they don't like it they can go home," local resident Allan told reporters as he watched the violence.

Sydney has many beaches, but Cronulla is one of few that are easily accessible by train and often is visited by youngsters many of Middle Eastern ethnicity from the poorer suburbs of western and southern Sydney.

Area residents accuse the visitors of being disrespectful and sometimes intimidating other beachgoers. Area Mayor Kevin Schreiber accused the mob of flocking to the beach looking for a fight.

"As mayor and as a resident of Cronulla, I'm devastated by what has occurred on our beachfront," he said.

"It is the actions of a few, but let's not kid ourselves that people didn't come from far and wide to participate."

The violence "is nothing short of disgusting and disgraceful", said Police Assistant Commissioner Goodwin. "It's certainly not the Australian way."

New South Wales state's political leader, Premier Morris Iemma, slammed the rioters.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on an ambulance at North Cronulla today," Iemma said. "There is never any excuse to attack any emergency vehicle."

The president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said the violence was "bound to happen" after callers to some radio talk shows whipped up ethnic tensions following the attack last weekend.

"Sections of the media took this issue far too far, and one can only surmise that the way [these] issues was dealt with on talk-back radio amounts to incitement," Trad said.

State police chief Commissioner Ken Moroney promised to target people who fuelled the ethnic tensions.

"Clearly there has been a level of racial vilification ... and those who are found to behave this way will be prosecuted," he said, without elaborating.

What the Australian newspapers say

The Daily Telegraph: The violent drunken louts who descended upon Sydney's Cronulla beach yesterday disgrace us all.

They shamed Australia with their mob behaviour, attacking an ambulance, smashing their way into a railway station, breaking car windows, and assaulting police in a bid to assault men and women of Middle Eastern appearance.

Unfortunately, the police reaction to the mass thuggery was weak, like the Redfern riots of February 2004 and the Macquarie Fields riots last February.

No doubt many Anglo-Australians (particularly women) who come in regular contact with large numbers of Middle Eastern migrants feel Australia's easy-going casual culture is under attack from young Middle Eastern males.

Melbourne's Herald Sun: The scenes that haunted Australia gangs hurtling abuse and racist chants, mobs pelting beer bottles at police and innocent people being bashed are not our way of life. The rioting follows weeks of simmering tensions about gang violence.

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