Parents are under fire for their decision to take children to a violent rally in Melton. A child looks on during a rally in Melton on Sunday.
A child looks on during a rally in Melton on Sunday.
Members of Reclaim Australia and supporters of No Room For Racism clash. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Violent brawls broke out throughout the four-hour protests. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Parents are under fire for taking their children to a violent anti-Muslim rally in Melbourne’s west on Sunday.
More than 1000 demonstrators gathered in the streets of the city-fringe suburb of Melton as anti-Islam activists from the self-described patriot group Reclaim Australia clashed violently with pro-refugee campaigners.
Masked and hooded protesters attacked each other with closed fists, while others used wooden flag poles to strike their opponents in the face.
They were met by a 500-strong ring of police – some heavily-armed and some on horseback – who spent six hours trying to keep the two groups apart.
Police were forced to use capsicum spray to disperse the crowd.
Witnesses to the chaos and violence were a number of children, from both protest groups. .
Several protesters from both sides were seen with young children, including a Reclaim Australia supporter pushing a stroller with a toddler through the crowd.
Retiring commissioner for Children and Young People, Bernie Geary, said he was shocked to learn that children had been taken to the rally.
He said it was “hardly responsible” to take children to a rally where violence was likely, adding that children could experience trauma from seeing any type of conflict.
“Children will experience fear and trauma as a consequence of being [there] yesterday – not just watching, not just seeing and hearing, but experiencing – that means they would be traumatised and in the long run that would be very harmful,” he told radio station 3AW.
Mr Geary said parents needed to do the right thing and shield their children from unnecessary violence.
“You need to protect them and care for them and keep them away from anything that’s going to be violent or traumatic. We should be looking after our children and protecting them,” he said.
Two rallies were planned for Melton on Sunday; one about a proposed Islamic school and the second about a mosque on Melbourne’s north-western outskirts.
But the two protests quickly turned into a heated shouting match. Violent scuffles broke out as the day dragged on, largely between protesters who had covered their faces with masks.
Six men were arrested, including a 29-year-old man who allegedly punched a police horse. A 44-year-old man was charged with possessing a weapon and two more men, aged 22 and 44, were taken into custody for riotous behaviour.
Victoria Police acting Commander Alan Byrnes said three people were injured.
“It’s always a bit disappointing when you see people turn up in masks. You wonder what their motives are for doing that. But, all in all, it was fairly peaceful,” he said.
“They’re just trying to gain attention. We’re here to stop them from doing that, in terms of clashes with each other, and I think that worked well.”
Reclaim Australia protester Marlene Williams said she attended the rally because she was worried mosques could lead to terrorism.
“Everyone should work together for peace,” the Melton grandmother said. “But Islam people don’t want to work with us. They just want to take over.”
On the other side of the debate, Bendigo resident Jess, who didn’t want her last name published, said failing to stand up to anti-Islam protests would mean a neo-Nazi movement could gain traction.
“It’s extremely important to challenge this ideology before it grows,” she said. “It was never about the mosque in Bendigo and it’s definitely not about an Islamic school today in Melton.”
It wasn’t the first time Victoria saw ugly scenes at anti-Islam protests.
In October, anti-Islam group the United Patriots Front protested in Bendigo against the building of a mosque.
On that occasion, anti-racist protesters were out in full force, with hundreds of police preventing the two groups from clashing.
And in Melbourne’s CBD earlier this year, far-right groups faced off with pro-immigration groups.
Premier Daniel Andrews said people had the right to protest peacefully but anything else was bigotry.
“If you are out there peddling hate, you are not a protester, you are just a bigot. It is simple as that,” Mr Andrews said.
With Steve Lillebuen, Richard Willingham, Henrietta Cook
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.