Police On Alert After Far-Right And Anti-Racist Groups Clash In St Kilda
A day after stemming violence on St Kilda's foreshore between right-wing groups and anti-racism campaigners, police will have a strong presence at another Melbourne event.
Officers will patrol the Lunar New Year festival in St Albans on Sunday to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Far-right groups, including notorious activists and convicted criminals Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell, converged on the popular St Kilda beach on Saturday for a "political meeting" in response to rising concerns about African gang crime in the city.
Left-wing and anti-fascist groups also gathered on St Kilda beach to hold large counter-protests and to show solidarity for targeted minority groups.
Some of the participants in the right-wing protest have suggested on social media they would show up to the St Albans event on Sunday in the northwest of Melbourne.
It follows a huge police presence, including hundreds of officers on foot and many on horseback, who arrested three people as they worked to keep the two groups separated.
A relatively small group of far-right supporters, which included federal senator Fraser Anning, listened as Erikson and others spoke about their concerns about immigration and crime.
Elsewhere, police formed a human barricade between the two groups. Some of those standing with the far-right supporters played music including the 'Imperial March' from Star Wars, also known as Darth Vader's theme music.
Videos captured at the scene showed others acting out Nazi-esque goose-steps and appearing to perform one-armed Nazi salutes.
A group from the far-right managed to run off with a power generator brought to the scene by anti-fascist supporters.
Anti-fascist groups yelled several chants, including "Sudanese are welcome, racists are not" and "Nazi scum off our beach".
It appeared little or no overt violence occurred, but video appeared to show police subduing or restraining at least one person on the ground. Officers also frog-marched several far-right supporters back to their side, after managing to break through the police line.
"Anyone coming to the event looking to cause trouble can expect a firm response from police; you will be arrested and held to account if you commit a crime," Victoria Police told 10 daily on Friday.
While some counter-protesters stood close to the far-right supporters, others on that side played music or sang songs. A group called Campaign Against Racism and Fascism encouraged its supporters to bring "a placard or a megaphone to drown out the tears" of the far-right group, while the Sleeping Giants advocacy organisation carried out a "giant sing-a-long" at the beach.
By around 4pm, the situation had largely dissipated as police followed both groups which moved away from the main beach area.
Members of both groups left the area, under the supervision of police who encouraged protesters onto public transport.