Rival immigration protesters clash in Melbourne

A demonstrator scuffling with a photographer during a rally outside Parliament House in Melbourne yesterday. Victoria state plans to impose stiffer penalties on mask-wearing protesters.
A demonstrator scuffling with a photographer during a rally outside Parliament House in Melbourne yesterday. Victoria state plans to impose stiffer penalties on mask-wearing protesters.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SYDNEY • Rival immigration protesters clashed for the second time in a month in Melbourne yesterday, with three people arrested as the government vowed to crack down on mask-wearing demonstrators.

About 120 people took part in an anti-immigration rally in the country's second-largest city, waving large Australian flags and carrying posters saying "Islamic refugees not welcome". Anti-Muslim sentiment has mounted in Australia in recent years following a series of attacks by radicalised youth, including the killing of a police employee in Sydney in October last year.

Yesterday's immigration protesters were confronted by about 200 anti-racism demonstrators, with hundreds of police officers on site to try to keep the two groups apart.

Some protesters broke through a police line, and one man was kicked and punched before officers intervened, Melbourne's The Age newspaper reported.

"Two people were arrested for assault, that's assault of each other, (and) one person was arrested for criminal damage, that's damage of a news reporter's camera," Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters.

The Age said one of its photographer's cameras was damaged by a protester, while footage from the rallies showed some demonstrators burning an Australian flag.

The latest round of clashes - the eighth since November last year, according to The Age - came as Victoria state's Police Minister, Ms Lisa Neville, announced new police powers and stronger penalties against protesters who wear masks.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Rival immigration protesters clash in Melbourne'. Print Edition | Subscribe