• United States



by Janice Brand

Racial Unrest in Australia Spreads Beyond Sydney

Dec 13, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

CSO alert for Australian operations:

The racial unrest that broke out in the beachside suburbs of Sydney, Australia, over the weekend spread to two other cities, where whites assaulted people of Middle Eastern descent, the Associated Press reported Dec. 13.

The AP reported:

In New South Wales, where Sydney is located, lawmakers scheduled an emergency session of the state Parliament to consider legislation cracking down on the rioters who rampaged through the city’s suburbs for two straight nights, the region’s premier said.

Seven people were injured and 11 arrested after youths rioted in the suburbs Monday night, smashing the windows of stores, homes and parked cars. The youths appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, leading police to believe the destruction was in response to racially fueled attacks on a Sydney beach a day earlier.

Calling the rioters ’’ratbags,’’ New South Wales premier Morris Iemma said police would be given special ’’lockdown’’ powers to stop convoys from forming and driving into communities to carry out acts of retribution. He also said he would urge lawmakers to pass legislation toughening prison sentences for rioting offenses.

Opposition lawmakers have already called for tough new laws and are expected to support the legislation. The state Parliament session is scheduled for Thursday.

’’I won’t allow Sydney’s reputation as a tolerant, vibrant international city to be tarnished by these ratbags and criminals who want to engage in the sort of behavior we’ve seen in the last 48 hours,’’ Iemma said

He added that rioters had ’’effectively declared war on our society and we won’t be found wanting in our response.’’

 The rioting began Sunday on Cronulla Beach when about 5,000 white youths, many drunk and wrapped in Australian flags, attacked people believed to be of Arab descent after rumors spread that Lebanese youths had assaulted two lifeguards earlier this month, the AP reported. Police fought back with pepper spray. The police had stepped up patrols on the beach after learning of cell phone text messages urging people to retaliate for the alleged attack on the lifeguards, the AP said. “Carloads of young Arab men then struck back in several Sydney suburbs, fighting with police for hours and smashing dozens of cars with sticks and bats, police said. Thirty-one people were injured and 16 arrested in the first day of unrest.”

On Monday, police said they discovered weapons including firebombs and rocks on the roofs of some houses in the beachside suburb of Maroubra. Some of those arrested were armed with machetes and baseball bats.

Elsewhere, Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio reported Tuesday that a family of Middle Eastern origin was attacked in the western city of Perth by a group of 11 white men, who threw eggs, shouted abuse and kicked their garage door. In Adelaide, a taxi driver of Lebanese origin, Hossein Kazemi, was injured when he was punched by a passenger during an argument over a fare Tuesday, the AP reported.

The AP reported that “Prime Minister John Howard has defended Australia’s policy of tolerance, noting the nation has successfully absorbed millions of foreigners. Before leaving Tuesday for a summit of Asian nations in Malaysia, he said he didn’t believe the rioting would affect Australia’s overseas reputation in the long-term.”

’’You have outbreaks of domestic discord that happens to every country and when it occurs there’s publicity, but people make a judgment about this country over a longer term,’’ he said.

In the 2001 census, nearly a quarter of Australia’s 20 million people said they were born overseas. The country has about 300,000 Muslims, most in lower income suburbs of large cities.