Bendigo mosque: Anti-Islam and anti-racist protester Featured

Bendigo mosque: Anti-Islam and anti-racist protester face off in counter rallies UGLY scenes erupted in Bendigo as anti-Islam and anti-racism protesters clashed over recently approved plans to build a mosque.

Frontline police trying to keep the rival groups apart were forced to use pepper spray as tensions boiled over.

Fearing the protests would turn violent, police pulled out all stops, drawing on members from outlying stations for support in what was dubbed one of the largest Victoria Police ­operations outside Melbourne.

Members of United Patriots Front, a 400-strong splinter group of Reclaim Australia, broke through barriers and police lines only once to attack the 250 members of opposing group No Room for Racism.

 

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Police tackle a “No Room for Racism” protester. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
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Paramedics with a protester. Picture: Rob Leeson.
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An anti-racism protester hurls a pot plant at United Patriot Front protesters. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

The violent melee, with many punches thrown, ignited after one of the anti-racism protesters set fire to an Australian flag.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that they would burn an Aussie flag,” one UPF protester said.

“We are here to protest peacefully for our democratic rights but they are just trying to antagonise us. They are meant to be representing anti-racism.”

The capsicum spray quickly dispersed the crowd as members of both groups ran away coughing to avoid the effects.

The rally had earlier kicked off in Hargreaves Mall about 1.30pm where UPF demonstrators gathered against the $3 million mosque, which was approved by the local council last year.

On August 6, the Victorian Civil and ­Administrative Tribunal rejected an appeal over that decision.

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A UPF protester gives the Nazi salute. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
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No Room for Racism protesters face off with Unted Patriots Front members. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

The anti-Islam demonstrators claim that up to 85 per cent of Bendigo residents do not want the mosque, fearing it will bring more Muslims to the region.

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Protesters wear masks at the rally. Picture: Rob Leeson.

The anti-Islam demonstrators claim that up to 85 per cent of Bendigo residents do not want the mosque, fearing it will bring more Muslims to the region.

But No Room For Racism demonstrators labelled the anti-mosque supporters “racists”, charging through the streets, many covering their faces with bandannas or masks, calling them “Nazi scum” and chanting “Muslims are welcome, racists are not”.

Many shops in the city centre were closed, upon advice from police in the days leading up to the rally.

Other residents stayed clear of the city centre, telling theSunday Herald Sunthey were embarrassed by the protesters’ behaviour but also fearful of being caught up in violence.

One woman called both sides involved in the rally “radical extremists”.

Despite the clashes, police said no arrests were made.

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UPF protesters at the rally. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
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Protesters in front of moutned police. Picture: Rob Leeson.
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The protest rally. Pictures: Rob Leeson.

Central Victoria police chief Superintendent Mick West praised the efforts of his 350 members present.

“We are pretty pleased with the result,” he said. “There has been a lot of preparation and planning that has gone into this. It is safe to say it’s one of the biggest operations outside Melbourne’s CBD.”

City of Greater Bendigo council last year approved the construction of the mosque in despite fierce opposition from many residents.

The council received more than 400 letters of objection, more than half of them on religious grounds.

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                                                                        UPF protesters shout at the protest. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Source: heraldsun