Over 1000 Victorian Police are bracing themselves today as anti-Islam protestors as well as anti-racism protestors are expected to converge in Melbourne’s CBD and the regional town of Bendigo.
The city, which sits 90 minutes away from Melbourne, has become the unlikely face of anti-Islam rallies after the City of Greater Bendigo announced its decision earlier in June last year to build a new mosque in the city which has become a hotbed for right-wing protests against Islam and fears of terrorism.
“There are those on the far left and the far right who will come I’ve got no doubt, with no intention other than to commit violent acts against each other,” said Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner, Stephen Leane.
“The sport of the day will be to win a piece of ground or to win a piece of time where they dominate the other group, and they will have no respect for anything either one of them has to say.
“The obligation comes with the opportunity to allow people to peacefully protest, but also we need to respect the right of our Muslim community to practice their faith,” Leane said.
Far-right groups will comprise of the United Patriots Front — which has links to Reclaim Australia– the Australian Defence League and Rise Up Australia while No Room for Racism is expected to stage counter-protests.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews echoed Leane’s thoughts at a multiculturalism round table in Bendigo yesterday raising the possibility of fringe groups who would add fuel to the protests.
“I’ll always defend a person’s right to protest and I’ll always defend people’s right to have a view about any planning matter but this is not about planning; this is not a protest against a mosque; it’s a protest against Muslims,” said Andrews.
The protests ride off the back of a shooting outside Sydney’s police headquarters in Parramatta earleir last week where 15-year-old Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar shot dead 58-year-old Curtis Cheng, a NSW police financial officer as he exited the building.
It was revealed that Mohammed — who was a regular attendee of the Parramatta Mosque — had visited the mosque shortly before the incident.
A group of 35 protesters gathered outside the mosque yesterday afternoon calling for it be shut down but no arrests were made.
The UPF rally is scheduled to take place at 2:30pm and will coincide with anti-Islam rallies across the UK, US and Canada.
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