Australia tries to end riots
More than 450 police, four times the usual number, patrolled Sydney’s streets on Tuesday to prevent a third night of racial violence by youth gangs who have attacked people, smashed cars and hurled rocks at police.
The New South Wales state parliament was being called into emergency session on Thursday to give police special powers to “lock down” parts of Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, to stop the unrest, officials said.
The state government will also increase the jail term for rioting from five to 15 years and double the penalty for affray, fighting in public, to 10 years.
These criminals have declared war on our society and we are not going to let them win,” NSW premier Morris Iemma said.
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. Police said white supremacists incited it.
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 background.
On Monday, gangs of youths, mainly of Middle Eastern background, attacked several people with baseball bats, vandalized cars and were involved in rock-throwing skirmishes with police for a second night, officials said.
Police said they found 30 Molotov cocktails and crates of rocks on rooftops as hundreds of surfers gathered at Maroubra Beach.
Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop George Pell said bullets were fired at a school staging Christmas carols in Sydney’s west on Monday night.
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 in Sydney 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.”
Police said a text message calling on people to start ”cracking skulls” had been received on the Gold Coast tourist strip in the tropical northern state of Queensland.
This Sunday is our turn to have a go and fight for the Gold Coast. These grease ball monkeys with their gold chains and fully sick cars need to know that we’re not copping any,” local media quoted the message as saying.
Attacks on Tuesday on a Middle Eastern family in Perth in western Australia, a Lebanese Australian taxi driver in Adelaide in south Australia and Islamic offices in the state of Victoria caused concerns the violence may be spreading across Australia.
Prime Minister John Howard called again 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,” saying Australia was not a racist nation.