Hi... not much yet. There has been ongoing tension in that area. Attacking beach life-savers (Aussie icons) is tantamount to inciting riotous behaviour, but I am trying to work out why the fuck it happened. It isn't your average sort of beachside behaviour. I'll report back. On SUnday there is a march against Racism in Sydney. . .
When Tim Longhurst read about a racist text message campaign urging people to descend on Cronulla Beach last weekend, he decided to start his own campaign to promote a more positive message about Sydney's racial diversity. He soon teamed up with other young people dismayed by the beach violence, and within a week they had organised a peaceful event at Belmore Park in the city yesterday (Sunday) that attracted more than 1000 people.
"What we saw today wasn't new, Sydney has always been a place where pople do get along, and today they came out in force to show that," Mr Longhurst said.
Numbers at the event, jointly organised by Matt Noffs of the Ted Notffs foundation, were bolstered by a rally organised by the National Union of Students earlier in the day at Twon Hall. Protssters carrying banners condemning everything from racial violence to the war in Iraq, marched down George and Pitt streets to the park. The Union's anti-racism officer, Osmond Chiu, said the recent violence had left most people "shocked, disgusted and fearful".
A Lebanese-born Sydney resident, Souad Daizli, attended the rally to protest at the way Lebanese people had been treated since the Cronulla riot. Wearing a Racism Sux badge, she said she had never been fearful of others in the community until now. "We have never witnessed anything life it. I didn't think I would live to see something like this," she said of the Cronulla riot. Even in the sympathetic atmosphere of yesterday's rally, she said her Australian-born children did not feel "comfortabel" attending.
A small group of people gathered in another part of the city to crate a patch of calm, meditating to the message of peace and love. "I think people are afraid because they make assumptions about what is going on but nobody takes the time to find out," said Jennifer, who asked that her surname not be used.
City faces Christmas lock-down Robert Wainwright, Anne Davies and Matt Wade: SMH
Sydney faces a summer lock-down as beaches, the city centre and suburbs are flooded with police armed with new powers in their fight against continuing threats of racial violence.
Behind a fascade of peaceful but almost deserted beaches at the weekend, a disturbing picture of determined violence emerged. Alleged white supremacists, and isolated groups and individuals of various ethnic backgrounds, were arrested as police seized weapons, cars, mobile phones and bomb-making materials.
The Police Comissioner, Ken Moroney, told the Herald last night he was prepared to maintain the unprecedented level of police activity over Christmas and the New Year, including warning the public off beaches if intelligence reports continued to point to credible threats.
He defended the weekend show of force, which included 2000 officers and roadblocks at beaches including Bondi, Coogee, Maroubra, Bright-le-Sands and Cronulla, as well as in Wollongong (2hrs south) and Newcastle (3 hrs north). "We acted appropriately this weekend and we will continue to sustain this focus," Mr Moroney said. "These were extraordinary measures for an extrordinary time. The intelligence is coming from a variety of sources, including the criminal community - I'll be that blunt - and it will form the basis of our operational tactics."
By last night (Sunday night) 59 people had been arrested since Friday night and almsot 200 charges laid. Police seized 22 mobile phones, 13 cars and scores of weapons including swords, knives, iron bars, baseball bats and axes. In Wollongong five cars and a replica pistol were confiscated.
Police said five white supremacists were arrested at Ramsgate Beach, near Brighton, carrying a 25-litre drum of petrol and equipment to make Molotov cocktails, as well as military helmets, police scanners and portable radios. Police roadblocks made Brighton virtually off-limits to all except residents last night.
Buses in the eastern suburbs (upmarket beach area) were stopped and searched during the afternoon after two men apparently of Middle Eastern background were take from a Bondi-bound bus carrying two 600-millilitre bottles of petrol. The driver had smelt petrol and notified the police.
The men, one of whom is from Melbourne, had been at a "harmony" rally at Belmore Park in the city earlier in the day and were carrying what police described as "anti-government literature" from the gathering. The (state) Premier, Morris Iemma, told residents: "This is not be a one-day fight. We are in for a long, hard fight but the message is: the hoons and the hooligans will not win. The police will keep the pressure on through the summer." He said a decision on whether the traditional Bondi Beach Christmas party would be allowed to proceed would be made during the week and he refused to say when the restrictions on the public freely attending the beach on weekends might be lifted.
About 10.30pm police began dismantling roadblocks around Brighton. But a heavy police presence remained, as groups of youths stood around on corners. Mr Iemma deflected calls for compensation for business owners, saying it was unlikely his Government would offer cash compensation to individual businesses, because it would be extremely difficult to administer. But he would consider ways in which affected areas could be hlped: "In coming days I will get together with the (local government) officials and the business people to see what assistance the Government can provide for the area."
Tourism groups are worried that the racial conflict will scare off overseas visitors and take a toll on the country's $73 billion tourism industry. Christopher Brown, from the Tourism and Transport Taskforce, said: "Who wants to be holidaying in the middle of a brawl?"
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