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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Japan Today - News - Thousands of police guard Sydney beaches - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Thousands of police guard Sydney beaches - Japan's Leading International News NetworkThousands of police guard Sydney beaches

Sunday, December 18, 2005 at 06:59 JST
SYDNEY — Despite warnings of further race riots, surfers, swimmers and sunbathers were outnumbered by police at Sydney beaches Saturday as road blocks were set up and people heeded advice to stay away.

Up to 2,000 police, including riot and dog squads backed by helicopters and boats, were deployed over the weekend to patrol troubled beaches in Australia's largest city and to the north and south.

The popular Cronulla beach in south Sydney, where racial violence first erupted 1ast Sunday, was nearly deserted as police staged random vehicle searches on approach roads, national radio said.

There were no reports of violence by nighfall but police were maintaining patrols in troubled areas throughout the night and said they would turn out in force at the beaches again on Sunday.

A special task force set up to crack down on the violence made 19 arrests on Friday night, including one in which a car was found to be carrying swords and a dagger. But most were for drunk driving, traffic and drug offenses, police said.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested in riots after white mobs set out to "reclaim the beach" from groups of Arab-Australians, mainly ethnic Lebanese, at Cronulla last Sunday, sparking days of revenge attacks.

The New South Wales parliament was recalled from its summer recess to pass legislation giving police extra powers to combat unrest, and police said intelligence indicated gangs would target the beaches again this weekend.

"I would urge people who do not live in these areas to stay away unless they have a good reason to be there," police chief Ken Moroney said.

It was a surprising call in a country that thrives on Australia's combination of sun, sea and sand, but early indications were that it was being taken seriously.

The mayor of Sutherland Shire, which includes Cronulla, had called on beachgoers to defy requests not to visit the beach, saying local businesses had been hard hit as people stayed away over the past week.

"I urge honest law-abiding people who want to spend a non-violent day of fun in the sun to make their way to Cronulla and help support those innocent business operators," he said.

However, media have reported throughout the week on email, mobile phone and website messages calling for more "protests."

Visitors to one newly established website were asked to meet near Cronulla on Saturday for a rally against "home-grown terrorist gangs" — a reference to the mainly-Muslim people of Middle Eastern appearance targeted last weekend.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that one neo-Nazi website called for fresh shows of strength in Sydney and the western city of Perth, while "on the usually laid-back surfing website there is a post urging protesters to set fire to a Sydney mosque."

Meanwhile, the government announced a new program to promote respect and understanding between ethnic groups, including encouraging non-Anglo Australians to become lifesavers.

"We want to have a program which basically educates everybody on how to behave on the beach," said Minister for Multicultural Affairs John Cobb.

Many residents of the middle-class Cronulla suburb had complained that groups of ethnic Lebanese from poorer inner-city suburbs descend on the beach at weekends and disrupt the easygoing atmosphere with aggressive behavior. (Wire reports)

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