News National Shorten condemns ‘war’ cries
Updated:

Shorten condemns ‘war’ cries

Lindt cafe flag
AAP
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has ridiculed the anti-Islamic fears of Reclaim Australia protesters as “exaggerated” and unfounded.

Yesterday saw heated exchanges at protests around the country with the Reclaim Australia group facing off against supporters of multiculturalism.

The largest gathering was in Melbourne where protesters from both sides pressed against police officers charged with the responsibility of separating the two groups.

Mr Shorten today told Channel Nine the Reclaim Australia group’s concerns about sharia law in Australia were unfounded.

“This idea somehow that there’s a big conspiracy amongst the Muslim minority to bring in sharia law is just completely exaggerated, I think it is really wrong to tar everyone in a minority with the view,” Mr Shorten said.

He said free speech was no justification for the demonstrations turning ugly.

“There’s no place for violence in any protests or any expressions of freedom of speech,” he said.

“You see rival groups saying that they’ve got a right to speak. People have got a right to state their view at a rally, but no-one has a right to violence.”

Supporters of multiculturalism say the Reclaim Australia rallies would have caused distress among new migrants.

The group said its hundreds of supporters were rallying against Islamic extremism, and not Muslims in general, but Welcome to Australia’s pastor Brad Chilcott said many of the signs and comments at the rallies were hurtful.

“It’s very easy to protest against a concept, but when you know the individuals that are impacted by this and recognise that they are just everyday people like you and I trying to make their way in Australia, you see the real damage that images like these do to people,” he said.

Pastor Chilcott said clashes between protesters could have been avoided if the two groups had a better dialogue with one another.

“The best thing to do to resolve any complex issue is for people to get to know one another, and for me that’s what the most frustrating thing is about these protests,” he said.

Recalim Australia held 16 rallies in capital cities, regional and rural centres, speaking out against sharia law, halal certification and Islamic extremism.

Counter-rallies were organised by opposing groups to protest against Reclaim Australia, which they said was anti-Muslim.

The two groups clashed in some cities, with a Tasmanian man charged with assault after the protest in Hobart’s Franklin Square.

Tasmanian police have encouraged anyone who experienced violence at yesterday’s rally to come forward.

“If they feel that they were the victim of a deliberate push, a slap … then they can make a statement and we will pursue through the witnesses exactly what occurred,” Inspector David Plumpton said.

“And if there was an assault, people will be proceeded against.”

Police at Brisbane's Reclaim Australia rally, which was met by opposing groups
Police at Brisbane’s Reclaim Australia rally. Photo: AAP

Speaker distances himself from ‘angry rant’

Heavy rain in many cities did not deter the hundreds of protesters on both sides who attended the rallies.

However, Phil Turnbull, who spoke at the Reclaim Australia rally in Tasmania, has moved to distance himself from the sentiments shared at the event.

Police keep the peace at a Reclaim Australia protest in Hobart
The rally in Hobart. Photo: AAP

“I thought this was going to be a calm call for dialogue and to air some concerns, but not an angry rant, and I don’t think that is the way to create dialogue and harmony in our society,” he said.

One Nation’s Pauline Hanson addressed supporters in Brisbane, while opposition protesters booed and held signs saying “racists and bigots please go back to where you came from”.

“My fellow Australians, we have people here today who stand against racism. Thank you for your support, so do I,” Ms Hanson said.

“I’m not a racist — criticism is not racism. I am a proud Australian fighting for our democracy, culture, and way of life.

“This rally being held across our nation today was called out of sheer frustration from ordinary Australians who fear for the future of our nation and the mindset of our politicians, who don’t appear to be listening.”

Danny Nalliah from the Rise Up Australia Party addressed the rally in Melbourne and said he was “not against Muslim people, but … opposed to the teachings of Islam”.

“We love the Germans, we oppose the Nazi philosophy. We oppose communist philosophy but we love the Russians and Chinese,” he said.

“Likewise, we oppose Islam but we love the Muslim people.”

But Melbourne anti-racist rally organiser Mel Gregson attacked the group, accusing it of spreading “conspiracy theories” by linking halal products with the Islamic State terrorist group.

“It’s basically implicating good Muslim people in the political movements of a tiny minority,” she said.

Danny Nalliah from the Rise Up Australia Party addressed the rally in Melbourne and said he was “not against Muslim people, but … opposed to the teachings of Islam”.

“We love the Germans, we oppose the Nazi philosophy. We oppose communist philosophy but we love the Russians and Chinese,” he said.

“Likewise, we oppose Islam but we love the Muslim people.”

In Tasmania, the Reclaim Australia protesters were outnumbered by opposition groups, with 40 turning out to protest against halal products and Sharia law.

They were met by about 100 people in a counter-rally calling for an end to racism and Islamophobia.

Police keep the peace at a Reclaim Australia protest in Hobart
Reclaim Australia rally in Hobart, Photo: AAP

There were several heated exchanges between groups, including pushing and shoving during the protest.

Likewise there was a heavy police presence in Adelaide as rival groups came face to face outside Parliament House in the city.

Hundreds of protesters rallied at Elder Park, then marched to nearby Parliament House carrying banners against Islam.

Some people were draped in Australian flags and some dressed as tubes of Vegemite.

Police cordoned off a rival group of supporters of multiculturalism, who protested against the Reclaim rally.

Protester John Bolton said his group was opposed to extremism but not Muslims in the wider community.

“What I’m not against is ordinary Australian people who happen to be Muslims who follow their faith, they don’t need anybody’s permission provided they comply with the Australian civil and criminal law and want to comply with our constitution,” he said.

Police separate protesters from opposing groups in Perth
Reclaim Australia protesters in Perth. Photo: AAP

About 300 people attended the rally at Parliament Place in Perth, including men, women and children.

Some of the men had their faces covered with skull masks or flags.

In their speeches, Reclaim Australia advocates denied several times that they were racist and said they just wanted Australia to be a Christian-based society.

Those at the rally goaded and jeered at a counter protest about one-third the size of the Reclaim rally.

Socialists, unionists and Indigenous people were joined by others who opposed the sentiments of Reclaim Australia.

A heavy police presence kept the two groups separated across the car park.