December 12, 2005

Racial violence hits Sydney for second night

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Seven people were injured and dozens of
cars damaged in a second night of racial violence spread across
Sydney, Australian police said on Tuesday, as they were given
special powers to stop the unrest.

Gangs of youths, mainly of Middle Eastern background,
attacked several people with baseball bats, vandalised cars and
were involved in rock-throwing skirmishes with police on Monday
night, officials said.

At Maroubra Beach, police said they found 30 Molotov
cocktails and crates of rocks stockpiled on rooftops, as
hundreds of local surfers gathered.

"These criminals have declared war on our society and we
are not going to let them win," Morris Iemma, premier of the
state of New South Wales, said on Tuesday.

"You will not take control of our streets," said Iemma,
announcing police will be given "lockdown" powers which will
allow them to prohibit entry into specified areas.

Police said this kind of violence was new to Australia.

"We're dealing with an unprecedented situation the likes we
haven't seen in Australia before, with this type of racial
tension and these types of series of smash and bash attacks
across multiple fronts," New South Wales assistant police
commissioner Mark Goodwin told local radio on Tuesday.

Australian media reported that mobile telephone text
messages from Australians of Anglo-Saxon and Middle East
backgrounds were both calling for revenge attacks to continue.

Islamic youth leader Fadi Abdul Rahman said further trouble
could be brewing as Muslim youths were angry, believing police
were not treating them fairly.

"They feel they have been dealt with by the authorities
differently to the way Anglos have been dealt with," he said.

"They feel injustice and they feel angry about it."

Prime Minister John Howard again called on Tuesday for calm
and tolerance, but again refused to describe the violence as
racist, instead labeling it a law and order issue and "domestic
discord," stressing Australia was not a racist nation.

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 mobs of youths, some wrapped in Australian flags,
said they were defending their beach after lifesavers were
attacked. They believe the attackers were of Lebanese

Police said white supremacists incited violence at


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

On Monday night, hundreds of Muslims were involved in an
angry standoff with police outside a Sydney mosque in the
western suburbs. Up to 25 cars with youths then drove to
Cronulla and used baseball bats to damage cars and smash
windows, police said.

The second night of racial violence prompted criticism of
Australia's multi-cultural immigration policy, with
commentators saying ethnic differences have been fostered for
many years, leaving some groups feeling alienated.

"These are gang riots but they are exacerbated by a
(immigration) policy which suggests you treat people
differently," said social commentator David Flint.

Many social and ethnic leaders said the violence was
primarily "gang warfare" and not purely race riots and that the
youths involved felt economically and socially disadvantaged.

"There is an increasing discourse of us versus them in
Australian society which has been partly unleashed by the war
against terror," said Melbourne University's language professor
Michael Clyne, an advocate of multi-culturalism.

"It is very difficult to define a war against terror, so it
means anyone can paint their own enemies."

But some politicians laid the blame squarely on racism.

"We are just getting a sample of what happened in France a
few months ago," said Labor opposition politician Harry Quick.

"Sadly if you scratch Australians we are a racist society,
it is only in the last 40-odd years that we have got rid of the
White Australia (immigration) policy," Quick told television.

"We have reached a pressure cooker stage here. People of
ethnic minority in Australia are just taking things into their
own hands."