December 13, 2005

Police restore calm at Sydney beaches

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A massive police operation restored calm
to Sydney's beachside suburbs overnight after two nights of
racial violence, with police urging community leaders to help
defuse the tension.

Police roadblocks checked scores of cars in suburbs scarred
by racial violence and made five arrests after a series of
isolated incidents, including one where four youths bashed a
man with a baseball bat.

Police said they were also investigating a fire which
destroyed a church hall in the city's inner west, but said it
was unclear if the fire was related to the violence on Sunday
and Monday night at Cronulla Beach and nearby Maroubra Beach.

Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Goodwin said the
increased police presence, which ensured calm overnight, would
continue indefinitely to ensure no repeat of the violence.

"I have been shocked and disgusted at the recent incidents
of violence by some members of the public," Goodwin said.

"I urge community leaders to continue dialogue in an effort
to defuse the aggression which seems to be prevalent at this

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

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

Police said white supremacists incited violence at

The New South Wales state government has recalled
parliament to pass special powers for the police to enable them
to lock-down parts of Sydney and ban alcohol consumption in
some areas in order to prevent a repeat of the riots next

Penalties for rioting offences will also be increased, with
jail terms of up to 15 years for serious offences.