The mayor of Bendigo was escorted on Wednesday night from a council meeting under police guard as up to 80 protesters hurled abuse over his council’s approval of the construction of a mosque.
Officers were called to Bendigo Town Hall about 6.30pm as protesters shouting “no mosque” and calling Mayor Peter Cox a “traitor” forced the monthly Greater Bendigo council meeting to close prematurely.
Four police members cleared the council chamber, removing one female protester from the mayor’s seat, which she had occupied after councillors left the chamber.
Protestors became rowdy during a half-hour public question and answer session that precedes the formal hearing.
Mr Cox, a vocal supporter of the mosque, said he felt safe as he was escorted from the council chamber but said he was disappointed at the way the meeting ended.
“They put their point of view but they made so much noise that it was not possible to continue running the council meeting,” Mr Cox told AAP.
“It is disappointing that some people would not allow other points of view to be expressed. Only one point of view was heard.
“The whole democratic process broke down because we had to adjourn the meeting.
It was unclear when the next meeting would be held and Mr Cox said questions from the gallery may have to be suspended.
He was confident the majority of Bendigo residents support the right of people from all faiths to have a place of worship, he said.
The City of Greater Bendigo approved the planned mosque in June 2014, despite vocal opposition.
Opponents unsuccessfully appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the council decision overturned.
They are now seeking leave to appeal VCAT’s decision in the Victorian Supreme Court.
In August anti-mosque protesters and demonstrators opposed to what they describe as racist attacks on the mosque proposal and Muslim people clashed outside the Bendigo Town Hall, sparking a series of scuffles.
In a statement, a Victoria Police spokesman said the police escort was provided “to ensure there was no breach of the peace”. “There were no assaults and no reports of criminal activity has been reported,” he said.
the utter hypocrisy of the Bendigo protests (anti-mosque) is astounding — Jacob (@jacob_frittata) September 16, 2015
— Joseph Hinchliffe (@joe_hinchliffe) September 16, 2015