Four people have been arrested as hundreds of police managed to contain anti-mosque and rival pro-diversity demonstrators at a rally in Bendigo, south-east Australia on Saturday, 10 October. The two opposing groups have disagreed over plans to build a mosque in the regional Victorian city.
More than 400 police officers – including riot squads, horse-mounted officers and a dog squad – managed to keep rival protesters from the United Patriots Front and Rally for Diversity apart during the protest. Victoria Police Superintendent Mick West said the force was "pretty happy" with the conduct of both groups who descended on the city on Saturday, noting they caused "little disruption", according the Herald Sun.
"We expect people to respect our city and obey the law," he said. "Victoria Police are happy with the outcome of today," he added.
Around 600 protestors, mostly people from outside Bendigo, took part in the demonstrations, according to the police. There were four arrests, including two men who were caught carrying knives in a public place and one for a minor assault. Police reported only two injuries, with officers being treated for heat-related illnesses, the Herald Sun reported.
The previous protest in Bendigo resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators from the far-right and left. However, the protest on Saturday was less violent with a heavy police presence keeping pro-diversity and anti-mosque protesters apart.
Anti-mosque protesters shouted "Aussie, Aussie. Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" and "No mosque", while pro-diversity demonstrators yelled "Nazi scum off our streets".
The United Patriots Front (UPF) spokesman Blair Cottrell – who is not from Bendigo – told supporters the rally reflected the community's concerns. He accused the Australian government and local authorities of encouraging multiculturalism. "Islam can only pose a threat to our nation if our weak leadership, or rather complete lack of leadership, is allowed to continue," he said.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism spokesman, Jerome Small, said that Cottrell's "neo-Nazi" ideology shows that he is a "wannabe Führer". Small said: "They are hardened fascists and what they are coming to Bendigo to do is to try and build their fascist movement."