HIJACKED BY HATRED
It was meant to be a peaceful anti-war protest by students
WITH bottles and knives in their hands and hate in their hearts, a mob of violent troublemakers yesterday ambushed a student anti-war rally to lead a vicious rampage through Sydney streets. A group of young men, described by police as ``Middle Eastern males'', created havoc by throwing chairs, rocks, bottles, eggs and golf balls at police and media during several hours of chaos in the CBD. Police also seized two knives from protesters, one of which fell on to the ground in the midst of a scuffle.
The violent spectacle began at Town Hall and resulted in two police officers and a number of protesters being injured. The two officers were struck in the head, one by a bottle and another by a golf ball, as they fought to contain the crowd which surged through containment lines. At least 45 mostly teenage participants were arrested -- including a boy aged 10 -- after the rally erupted into violence about 12.30pm.
Assistant Police Commissioner Dick Adams said it was clear a large proportion of protesters had come to the rally ``for the express purpose of fighting police.'' ``We had a group of people who went to Town Hall [for] nothing other than to incite trouble,'' he said. ``A large group of Middle Eastern males started to engage and incite the police in St Andrew's Square [near Town Hall] and they started to pick up cafe furniture from the area and throw it at police.''
Clutching placards condemning Prime Minister John Howard and US President George W. Bush, a 2000-strong group of students -- many wearing their school uniforms -- gathered for the protest at midday.
Yelling profanities and defying police instructions, the mob grew increasingly brazen until a scuffle broke out between protesters and police. The fracas quickly spread to a nearby cafe, where some youths threw chairs from an outdoor seating area at police, photographers and reporters.
Students burnt an American flag before moving on to Hyde Park, where scores of protesters cavorted in the Archibald Fountain. Hundreds of police officers surrounded the exits to the park, ensuring the crowd was contained within its boundaries. After leaving the park, the marchers moved through the Pitt St Mall and Castlereagh St, before congregating outside Mr Howard's Phillip St offices. There, the protesters hurled further insults while as least 50 police, including mounted officers, tried to contain them.
Australian Arabic community leaders condemned the violent clashes but rejected police claims the perpetrators were Middle Eastern men. However, police countered that television footage clearly showed the majority of those arrested appeared to be of the same ethnic background.
(From the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" of THU 27 MAR 2003)
STUDENT anti-war protests turned violent in cities around the nation, reflecting a new, strident mood among Australians frustrated at a federal Government ignoring their message of peace. Dozens of teenagers and other demonstrators were arrested in Sydney when a peace rally ended up in a wild riot. There were also arrests at rallies in Brisbane, while in Melbourne students clashed with police and burned US flags and effigies of the Prime Minister and US President George W. Bush. Mounted police broke up a 500-strong protest in Perth as paint, urine and tomatoes were thrown at the US consulate.
Rally organisers in Sydney claimed the day was a success and warned they would hold a similar protest next week with the aim of shutting down the entire CBD.
``We want to cause as much disruption as possible,'' organiser Jarvis Ryan said.
The Sydney rally began peacefully with about 5000 students gathering at Town Hall Square to demonstrate against war with Iraq, but ended in chaos. With bottles and knives in their hands, ``and hate in their hearts'', according to The Daily Telegraph, a mob of ``violent trouble-makers'' -- described by police as ``Middle Eastern males'' -- ambushed the student rally to lead a ``vicious rampage through Sydney's streets''. Cafe chairs, rocks, bottles, eggs and golf balls were thrown at police, two knives were seized and 33 people were arrested at the rally, some reportedly as young as 10.
The Australian reported ``a minority of protesters burned flags and chanted `Allah is great'''. The arrests occurred, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, when police declared the protest an unlawful assembly and attempted to end it.
The previous day a Newspoll published in The Australian found support for the war had jumped to 50 per cent in recent weeks, offering evidence of a nation genuinely divided.
Prime Minister John Howard -- enjoying a popularity rating more than 41 points higher than his beleaguered Labor counterpart Simon Crean -- pushed for Australia to get a seat at the table for the reconstruction of post-war Iraq, along with the US and Britain. Australia wants administration of Iraq to be transferred to the UN as soon as possible, but accepts the ``moral authority'' of the US to administer Iraq in the war's immediate aftermath.
(From 29 MAR 2003 in "The Australian")