Rival protesters clash in Melbourne

A police officer using pepper spray on a protester in Coburg, Melbourne, yesterday. The United Patriots Front organised a "Stop the Far Left" rally, while anti-racism protesters marched under a banner that said "Moreland says No to Racism". Violence
A police officer using pepper spray on a protester in Coburg, Melbourne, yesterday. The United Patriots Front organised a "Stop the Far Left" rally, while anti-racism protesters marched under a banner that said "Moreland says No to Racism". Violence broke out when both sides met.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MELBOURNE • Violence erupted in Australia's second-biggest city yesterday after people attending two opposing immigration rallies clashed on the streets, with police arresting seven people.

Hundreds of police officers attempted to keep the groups apart in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. Footage showed protesters using Australian flags on poles to beat other demonstrators.

"There was riotous behaviour and it was appalling," said Victoria Police Commander Sharon Cowden.

Two of the people who were arrested were held on weapons offences.

The United Patriots Front organised a "Stop the Far Left" rally, while anti-racism protesters marched under the banner "Moreland says No to Racism". Moreland is a district in Melbourne.

Fears of young Australian Muslims being influenced by militant groups and travelling to fight in Iraq and Syria have underpinned support for the right-wing groups.

Asked about the violence, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the multicultural nature of Australian society was "one of our great achievements".

"We are united, we have so much in common, and we are stronger and more prosperous as a nation because of that diversity," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Rival protesters clash in Melbourne'. Print Edition | Subscribe