Lefties and Anarcho’s getting pepper sprayed:
Police have been forced to use capsicum spray to quell crowds and break up tense encounters between the various protesting groups including the Coalition Against Racism and Fascism and right-wing Reclaim Australia.
Reclaim Australia, No Room for Racism rally in Melbourne
Police have deployed capsicum spray and the horse squad, as well as hundreds of uniformed officers, in a bid to control violent protests near Parliament House.
Right-wing group Reclaim Australia had only just begun its rally at 11am when counter-demonstrators from anti-racism groups and anarchists attempted to breach police lines on Spring Street.
A small number of hooded and masked anti-racism protesters broke through and nearly reached screaming members of Reclaim, which included a man with Nazi tattoos taunting them with calls of “lefty scum”.
The anti-Islam group attracted about 50 protesters at its 11am rally, but numbers grew just after midday when about 60 supporters of the hardline United Patriots Front joined them.
The UPF was escorted to the rally from behind police lines and on the opposite side from the anti-racism protest groups.
“Need back up? We’re here now,” one of them said as they entered the secure protest zone.
The two crowds were separated 20 metres by two deep police lines, which left both sides screaming obscenities but not able to clash.
Mike Holt, head of Restore Australia, told Fairfax Media he was disappointed by the turn out of “everyday” Australians: “I can’t believe how small the crowd is. It’s terrible.”
Later when addressing the crowd, he said the protest was against the “creeping Islamisation of Australia”.
“This is a chance to tell people that there can be a different way… this is about keeping Australia, Australian,” he said.
Blair Cottrell, from the UPF, told the crowd it needed “faith” and called for the Prime Minister to become involved.
“A faith can only be defeated by another faith just as strong. The faith we need now is the faith of our nation,” Mr Cottrell said.
“This is a gathering of Australian people, of Australian votes. Where is Mr Abbott?”
Controversial pastor Danny Nalliah from Catch The Fire Ministries also spoke at the rally.
An anti-Islam protester. Photo: Chris Vedelago
Some self-described anarchists were among the counter-protesters and a few others wore bandanas and face masks.
Counter-protesters said some members were treated after police pepper sprayed them.
Sue Munroe, a member of the Socialist Party, said she was attempting to hold back jostling protesters from police, but received a full blast of spray.
“We told people for months that it this would be a peaceful rally and we came here trying to help and we got hurt,” Ms Monroe said.
She said Palestinian community member Mazen Adel tried to protect her, but “copped” the full brunt himself.
“These racist are like Hitler. He was allowed to go for five years and this is Hitler again. We cannot allow this,” Mr Adel said
Grandmother Debra Holland had an altercation with a woman attempting to join protests behind police lines.
She said she placed a sign in front of the other protester before she was hit.
She said a woman seeking to join the protest was then pushed and shoved away by No Room for Racism protesters.
“I was just standing there and I put my arm out and she came and attacked me. I didn’t attack her,” Ms Holland said.
She earlier escorted a bride through Macarthur Street after she came to Parliament rather than Treasury by mistake.
“They shouted terrible racism at this beautiful bride and her father,” Ms Holland said.
No Room For Racism claimed victory, shouting: “make some noise because it is three-nil against the racists in Melbourne.”
A brief scuffle between protesters coming up Bourke Street led police to position a squad of officers behind the Windsor Hotel.
Police on horseback were sent in to quell ugly scenes when competing protesters from Reclaim Australia and No Room for Racism clashed on April 4.
Reclaim Australia will also rally in Adelaide on Saturday, and in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and other regional centres on Sunday.