There have been ugly scenes in Australia as anti-Islam and anti-racism demonstrators clashed.
Injuries and arrests were reported in Melbourne – the venue with most violence on a nationwide day of protest by the ‘Reclaim Australia’ group which denounces what it sees as the Islamisation of the country.
Demands such as banning the burqa however drew an angry response from counter-demonstrators. Police struggled to keep the two sides apart.
“We are here to protest for the rights of everyone to live here,” said one young man in the anti-racism rally.
“They have an issue with these people that they don’t understand. They just fear them and as Australians we are supposed to be welcoming people,” a female anti-racism protester said.
Reclaim Australia denies being racist or anti-Muslim. But for critics, the group’s rhetoric and message is provocative.
“Seven Islamists planned to blow up the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Grand Final Day,” protest organiser Shermon Burgess told supporters in a rain-soaked Sydney, referring to a 2005 plot.
“Had they succeeded, they would have killed thousands of men, women and children. One of the men involved had been living in Australia for 19 years on welfare payments.”
Despite the rain, demonstrators were determined to defend what they see as traditional Australian values – gathering near the café where an Islamist gunmen staged a deadly siege last December.