Sunday, December 11, 2005

(Sydney’s Cronulla) Beach Erupts into Violence (From: AAP)

Caption of the photo: Confrontation ... Police subdue a troublemaker /AAP

Note from the blog editor:
It is time to look at Down-Under. Lately, the diversity issue has been a hot button in Australia especially after passing a bill that is similar to the “Patriot Act” of the States. Under the article, there is a link to the issue from the same source as this article, On another note, a short interesting article from AP shows the annual list of most searched words on Merriam-Webster online service. As a reader, I enjoy this kind of news pieces from time to time to link it with the cultural trends.


ANGRY crowds have singled out and bashed people of Middle Eastern appearance at Sydney's Cronulla beach as racial tension erupted into violence.

And an ambulance called to the scene to treat five people injured in today's violence has been attacked by a mob who shattered its windows.
Meanwhile, police have been pelted with beer bottles, and their patrol cars stomped on, as the outnumbered officers struggled to maintain control.

Witnesses saw officers using capsicum spray in a bid to quell those perpetrating the violence.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Goodwin said police were forcing their way through the crowd, trying to prevent further attacks.

He said a number of people had been assaulted but could not say exactly how many. However, an ambulance spokesman said at least five people had been injured.

It was those people the ambulance was trying to reach when it was attacked.

"An ambulance attempting to transport five injured people from the scene was set upon by a large group of people who smashed its windows," an ambulance spokesman said.

Mr Goodwin said today's violence was disgusting.

"What has been occurring on some fronts is that people of Middle Eastern backgrounds that have been seen in the Cronulla area – a swarm of the crowd has approached these people with vile abuse, in the most un-Australian way," Mr Goodwin said.

"We have a number of reports of persons that have been assaulted."

He said the bulk of the crowd had behaved but pockets of violence had broken out.

"... we have sections of the crowd that have swollen towards young Arabic males and females, who have been using this beach."

Three people have been arrested so far, with more arrests expected.

Earlier today, police rushed to Cronulla train station where a mob ran there from the foreshore after receiving a text message saying a group of Lebanese people were trying to leave. Mr Goodwin said the text message was wrong, but sparked a scuffle at the station between the crowd and police.

"The behaviour that's been seen down here at Cronulla today is nothing short of disgusting and disgraceful," he told reporters at the beach.

"It's certainly not the Australian way.

He appealed for calm in the beachside suburb in Sydney's south.

"These people are from an area that is a peaceful suburb ... and what they are doing to their area at the moment, fuelled by people from other areas as well, is nothing short of disgraceful."

Earlier, a police spokeswoman said two men, aged 32 and 20, had been charged with offensive behaviour.

A third man had been arrested and was expected to be charged with assault, she said.

It was not clear if any of the arrests related to earlier witness reports of at least three men being pursued and attacked as they tried to get away from angry members of the crowd chasing them on foot.

At least two of the men took refuge at Northies Pub, where police gathered to protect them.

Roads were closed down as the violence flared today, with mounted police trying to maintain control lines as a police chopper hovered over the beach.

Some bars and shops along the beach have temporarily closed. Others have bouncers stationed at the door, blocking anyone from going inside.

Authorities had expected trouble today after two violent incidents at the beach last week – an attack on two lifeguards on Sunday and a brawl later in the week in which youths turned on a media crew. A series of text messages then began circulating, encouraging members of two rival groups of beach users to attack each other.

One of the messages had urged "Aussies" to take revenge against "Lebs and wogs". Another urged locals to rally at a point on the beach today to take retaliation against "middle eastern" gangs.

As the 5,000-strong crowd moved along the beach and foreshore area today, one man on the back of a ute began to shout "No more Lebs" – a chant picked up by the group around him.

Others in the crowd, carrying Australian flags and dressed in Australian shirts, yelled "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ... Oi, Oi, Oi".

Authorities spent last week calling for calm, and Mr Iemma today said he would amend the law so that thugs who assaulted lifeguards could face the maximum 25 years in jail.

The amendment would allow courts to consider it an aggravating factor if an assault victim was a volunteer.

"Those who selflessly give up their time to save people in distress on the beach should not be considered easy targets by thugs and hooligans," Mr Iemma.

"We are going to back them with extra protection that will ensure that judges take into account their status in the community when sentencing."

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