Community Safety

Riot police descend on Melbourne as rally against anti-Semitism faces off with anti-Israel protesters outside Victorian Parliament

May 19, 2024

Sunday 19 May 2024
Laurence Karacsony

Melbourne has erupted in protests on Sunday as a rally against anti-Semitism faced off with pro-Palestine counter-protesters outside the Victorian Parliament.

Dozens of Victoria Police, mounted police and riot squad officers descended on the city centre to wedge a divide between the two groups.

The anti-Semitism protesters, among whom were Christian founders of the “Never Again is Now” movement, along with members of the Jewish community, waved Australian and Israeli flags while holding up umbrellas with the slogan “stop hate mate” to stave off the rain.

On the other side, pro-Palestine demonstrators yelled “intifada, intifada” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” while banging drums.

According to The Australian, the police focussed on the pro-Palestine protesters at the other end of Spring Street, about 200 metres away, as they attempted to circumnavigate the law enforcement boundary.

Approximately 7,000 people were in attendance across the two opposing rallies, Victoria Police said in a statement.

Six people were arrested and released, pending summons. Of those arrested, one person was arrested for bill posting, three for hindering police while another was arrested for hindering police and stating a false name.

A sixth person was arrested for assaulting police and was found to be in possession of a drug of dependence.

Many of the protesters flying the Palestinian flag wore keffiyeh’s over their faces as they congregated in Melbourne’s busy CBD for the Nakba Sunday Rally.

The rally marked the 76th anniversary on Wednesday of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe”, and 24 hours since the annual Victorian state Labor Party conference at Moonee Valley Racecourse was crashed by protesters.

Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson spoke out against anti-Semitism at the rally, labelling the growing anti-Israel sentiment in the country as the “elephant in the room”.

“Just over there are people counter protesting this rally, counter-protesting a rally against anti-Semitism,” Mr Paterson said.

“And the material they used to promote their protest is frightening: blood-stained writing, a jackboot stomping on the Star of David.

“For the last six months they’ve had this city to themselves, but on the one weekend the Jewish community and their friends show up they are here to try to intimidate us.”

Mr Paterson said Melbourne, in fact, belonged to “all of us”.

“We are not afraid. We will not be bullied. And the good news is they are an isolated fringe. They don’t speak for Australia,” he said.

“In fact just this week the Senate voted on an overwhelming bipartisan basis to condemn their hateful rhetoric and slogans.

“The vast majority of Australians reject these extremists. Everyone here today stands proudly with the Jewish community and against their hate. And we will stand with you for as long as it takes to defeat it.”

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