By JR on Monday, August 29, 2011
PEOPLE brave enough to venture out into the wet at Brisbane's South Bank yesterday found themselves caught in the crossfire of very abusive protesters.
What started out as a protest against chocolate store Max Brenner turned into a heated face-off with those who turned out to support the company.
Pitted against each other outside the chocolate shop, the two opposing groups screamed at each other for 45 minutes before police moved one of the groups on.
The aim of the protesters, made up of the Socialist Alternative and the Justice for Palestine groups, was to highlight the support of Max Brenner's parent company, the Strauss Group, for the Israeli military and its sale of provisions to it.
Chanting "Max Brenner, come off it; there's blood in your chocolate", the group held up placards accusing Max Brenner of supporting apartheid.
The counter-protesters, made up of students, Israeli community members and politicians, screamed at their opponents: "Go home, Nazis!"
Logan City councillor Hajnal Black was repeatedly restrained by police as she pushed through the barricade line yelling: "We don't want Nazis in this country!"
There was a big police presence at the protest yesterday after a demonstration outside a Max Brenner store in Melbourne last month led to 19 arrests and three police officers being injured.
A law student, Danielle Keys, organised the student contingent of counter-protesters on Facebook after seeing footage of the Melbourne protest.
"I don't have a particularly strong opinion either way on Israel or Palestine. What's more important is dealing with freedom of enterprise and freedom of association and freedom of religion in this country," Ms Keys said.
"This is really about the innate anti-Semitic attitudes of extremist groups like the Socialist Alternative. We're all turning up to say, 'No, in Australia we support tolerance.' "
The Queensland Liberal National Party senator, Ron Boswell, said Max Brenner was a popular and "legitimate business" that should not be targeted in this way. "I think it's absolutely outrageous," he said. "I don't mind if people don't want to buy Max Brenner chocolates, but there shouldn't be pickets and intimidation and rallies to stop people.
"I think people that are trying to hit it with a boycott and picketing it, particularly a Jewish business, reminds me of some of the things that happened in the early 1930s."
The Socialist Alternative website says protesters will target Max Brenner Chocolates because it is owned by the Israeli-based Strauss Group.
It says the corporate responsibility section of Strauss Group's website – since amended – pledged the company's support to the Israeli army, including providing soldiers with food for training and missions.
The Socialist Alternative says the company has supported a platoon "infamous for its involvement in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and other atrocities".
Senator Boswell, who spoke about the boycotts issue in Federal Parliament last week, said the protest was driven by the "super-left".
He said anyone wishing to protest on the issue should do so outside the Israeli embassy. "But don't pick on someone that comes to a chocolate shop; seriously, that's petty," he said.