December 14, 2005

Australian police prepare for more racial violence

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Mobile telephone text messages calling
for racial violence in four Australian states circulated on
Wednesday, said police, as another major overnight security
operation begun in Sydney to maintain peace in beachside

More than 450 police took to the streets in Sydney,
Australia's largest city, for a second night on Wednesday,
erecting roadblocks to check drivers moving into areas of
previous unrest, such as Cronulla Beach in the south.

Sydney's racial violence erupted at Cronulla last Sunday
when some 3,000 people, some yelling racist chants, attacked
people of Middle East appearance, saying they were defending
their beach from Lebanese youth gangs.

Police said white supremacists incited violence at

Lebanese and Muslim youths retaliated with two nights of
violence in several different beachside suburbs.

The burning to the ground of a church hall on Tuesday
night, smashing of church windows and shots fired at a Catholic
school, prompted authorities on Wednesday to say they would
focus on places of worship to ensure they were safe from

"Special attention will be paid to places of worship, our
churches and our schools," said Morris Iemma, premier of the
state of New South Wales (NSW).

"Obviously we have to be on guard for this, and these
hooligans and criminals will not destroy the fabric of our
society," Iemma told a news conference.

The NSW state parliament will hold an emergency sitting on
Thursday to pass legislation giving police extra powers to
allow them to "lockdown" suburbs and areas of unrest in Sydney
and impose alcohol prohibition on areas.


Police said they were investigating text messages inciting
racial violence in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and
Western Australia.

Some messages called for racial violence next Sunday, the
one week anniversary of the unrest. Text messages were used to
incite mob violence in Cronulla last weekend.

In a counter campaign, Lebanese and surfer gangs held
"peace talks" at Maroubra Beach in Sydney on Wednesday and
agreed to start a text message campaign calling for calm.

"There are certain individuals and they will be weeded out,
they will be outcasts," Tony Nasr, from the Lebanese Christian
Community, said after the meeting.

Surfer Nathan Rogers, from Maroubra's notorious "Bra Boys"
gang, said: "The beaches are not anyone's turf, they should be
open to everyone, no matter of ethnic background."

Similar "peace talks" between Muslim leaders and surfers
will be held at Cronulla Beach on Wednesday night.

While Muslim women's groups urged a voluntary curfew on
Arabic youths, calling for parents to keep their children home
this Friday and Saturday night and all day Sunday.

The women urged parents to confiscate mobile telephones and
car keys this weekend, when police will stage a major security
operation to prevent a repeat of last weekend's violence.

"I urge community leaders to continue dialogue in an effort
to defuse the aggression," said Assistant Police Commissioner
Mark Goodwin.

But NSW Police Minister Carl Scully said police were
preparing for more unrest this weekend.

"We expect further problems. We had more than 400 cops
(police) last night. Expect hundreds on top of that on Saturday
and Sunday," he said.