EIGHT people are expected to be charged after violent clashes between hundreds of police and protesters erupted in Sydney’s CBD.
Six police were injured and 17 others were treated for the effects of capsicum spray today when a demonstration against an anti-Islamic film got out of hand.
Eight of the protesters were expected to be charged with a range of offences, including affray, assaulting police, resisting arrest and throwing a missile.
Police said they would also begin poring through “a significant amount of evidence” that had been gathered through the media and officers, and that anyone caught committing offences would be “vigorously pursued”.
Saturday’s angry scenes began after about 1pm (AEST), when an “unannounced and unapproved” group of people gathered at Town Hall as part of a global protest against an anti-Islamic film.
Police said the group began walking along George Street towards Martin Place, where they attempted to enter the US consulate, which is located in the MLC Centre.
It was here, according to police, that violence between officers and the growing group first broke out. Tempers flared again when the demonstrators – then about 300-strong – took their rallying cry to Hyde Park.
Capsicum spray was fired, leaving faces red and inflamed, while one man was seen being dragged along the ground with blood dripping down his face.
Superintendent Mark Walton later said he believed some people went to the protest “armed”, with a view to cause damage and assault police…
Tallying up the damage, Supt Walton said eight people had been arrested, two had been taken to hospital for dog bites and 17 others were treated for the effects of the capsicum spray.
Meanwhile two officers were taken to hospital, another four were injured and at least two police vehicles were damaged.
All levels and sides of politics were quick to condemn the protest with Prime Minister Julia Gillard issuing a statement saying: “Violent protest is never acceptable – not today, not ever.”
“The right to protest comes with an equal responsibility to do so peacefully,” NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said.
“That responsibility has been comprehensively ignored today.”
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told the Seven Network it was “completely, utterly and absolutely unacceptable”, adding those responsible for the violence should be prosecuted.
Greens leader Christine Milne said there was no place for violent protests in Australia.
“We welcome clear statements from leaders and members of the Islamic community in Australia condemning the violence and noting that this protest is not representative of them.”
Despite the violence Supt Walton said “there was potential for it to escalate” far more than it did and that he was “quite comfortable” with the way police reacted.
As half of an Assistance Dog partnership who has ‘enjoyed’ the full toxic-taxi experience in the UK, my sympathies here are entirely with the police dog.