WAVES OF PROTESTS have been seen in the Middle East and London and now demonstrations over an anti-Islamic film made in the US have spread as far as Australia.
Six police officers were injured and eight people arrested during Saturday’s violence in Sydney.
ABC News reports that police clashed with protesters in Hyde Park and the city’s business district, while fights were also seen on the streets.
The broadcaster said it understands the rally was started after a mass text message was sent, which read: “We must defend the honour of our prophet, we must act now.”
Hundreds of Muslims then took to the streets to protest against the controversial film made in the US. At about 1pm, a group of people marked from Sydney Town Hall to Martin Place, where a confrontation involving both protesters and police occurred outside the US Consulate.
Police said that a number of people left the group peacefully but some others moved to Hyde Park where police negotiated with them in an attempt to disperse the crowd. However, further violence erupted until about 5pm.
About 150 officers were called to the protest and six were injured during the events. Eye witnesses said that glass bottles and other missiles were thrown in the direction of police. Two have been taken to hospital for treatment. Eight people were arrested for various offences including affray, assault and throwing a missile, said NSW Police Superintendent Mark Walton.
“I think we have actually acted very professionally and responded very well to what was a completely unannounced and unorganised protest. There was no advice given to police by this group that they intended to protest and, as a result, in a very short amount of time we had a significant amount of police,” he added.
Protesters say that pepper spray was used on them. Police admitted to the use of OC spray “in an attempt to subdue and disperse the crowd” during an incident at Martin Place. A total of 17 people were treated on site for the effects. Two others received medical treatment for dog bites.
“In NSW there is a right to peaceful protest,” continued Walton, “a right to express our view – but there are rules to follow. This group did not advise police of their plans, there was little or no organisation or control of what they were doing, and their actions were disgraceful.”
Whatever their grievance, there is no excuse for this type of unlawful and anti-social behaviour, and it will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the protest was unacceptable.
“Violent protest is never acceptable – not today, not ever,” she said in a statement.
US diplomatic posts around the world have been targeted in recent days by protests against the film Innocence of Muslims, which ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.