Racial tensions in Sydney: Sydney police in denial

Indians are a generally polite and unaggressive people (remember Mahatma Gandhi's gospel of non-violence? The Mahatma is still revered throughout India) and that makes them targets for more predatory groups. In Melbourne the attacks on them mostly emanate from young African men but in Sydney it is young Lebanese Muslim men. In both cities the Indians know who their attackers principally are and have become hostile towards their oppressors. Only energetic police pursuit of all wrongdoers could quieten the situation but that looks like too much work to them

Progress in Victoria: Victoria's chief cop has now admitted that much of the violence is racial and is promising increased police action. We will believe that when the prosecutions of the attackers begin

Two people were arrested and more than 100 others were told to move on after an Indian community in Sydney's west held a protest against racial violence last night. Up to 150 Indian people from the community stormed the streets of Harris Park about 8 pm in protest against claims of years of racial slurs and attacks in the area. Police were forced to close of an entire block of Harris Park around Marion and Wigram Streets.

This comes after a young Indian men and some middle eastern men clashed in the same area on Monday night. They chanted "justice" as police told them to stay calm. At one point officers told a large group to walk away and when they refused threatened to arrest them for not complying. No-one was injured and talks are expected to be held with police about the violence in the area.

The Daily Telegraph spoke to the protesters last night, many of whom said they would form their own vigilante-like groups to patrol the streets at night. Harris Park local Kush Ghai, 22, said the local Indian community held the protest last night because they wanted more police protection after claims of years of racial abuse. "We want peace, justice and protection," Mr Ghai said. Sarabjot Singh, 25, said Indians living in Harris Park have been victimised for the last few years and accused police of doing nothing about it. "This (the attacks) is the story every day. But now we cant take it anymore," he said. By 10:30 pm, all the protesters had been moved on from the area by police.

Within hours of another great hosedown in this city - police declaring the disturbance in Harris Park on Monday was not race-driven - groups of Indians and Lebanese again began circling each other in the suburb's streets. Again police intervened to separate them and again it was hosed down as an incident of no great note.

Then this, from a Lebanese woman who walked into one of the few remaining Lebanese shops in Harris Park: "It has become unbearable." Her tolerance dead, she was speaking of the Indians who stand in the street when she wants to park her car and refuse to make way for her. "One of them attacked me one day," she said. "He left his car and came walking towards me and people were sitting there and they didn't even want to stop it."

She did not want to give her name. "I am not scared of giving my name but I have got no trust in them," she said. "Keep your distance. That's it."

The authorities' formal dismissal of Monday's incident as being of no great gravity has done exactly the reverse of what police and the NSW Government had hoped. It has inflamed tensions. Both populations now feel even more slighted by a society refusing to acknowledge their problem.

Across the road, Bhavin Jadav spoke for an Indian population feeling persecuted by young Lebanese men. He said Indian students are seen as a "soft target" by these men, who prey on their civility. "That's why they attack Indian students, they don't believe in violence," he said. He was robbed last year when a group of Lebanese men took mobile phones and wallets from his group of friends. Then, just the other day, a petrol bomb was launched at an Indian home on Albion St. The Lebanese are the problem, he said, with much the same authority in his voice as Joseph Gitani when he declared: "It's mini-Bombay, to be honest with you."

Mr Gitani is 49 and was born in Australia but is of Lebanese descent. Yesterday he went to the scene of Monday's disturbance. As each side vented its anger at the other, a 16-year-old Lebanese boy was at home, sleeping off the night before. With three friends, he was returning from dropping a girlfriend at home when they turned into a group of 300 protesting Indians. As bad timing goes, this about tops it. The Indians were drawing attention to another racial attack they believe went unrecognised earlier that evening. According to Mr Jadav, about 15 Lebanese men had attacked a young Indian man walking in Wigram St. "Just near those three cars," he said.

So the Indian population rallied, peaking when a car carrying young Lebanese men turned into their path. The Indians rocked their car until eventually a door was opened and the 16-year-old was hauled out. Two others were also dragged out, while the last broke free. All were punched and kicked and eventually ended in hospital with superficial injuries. They were shouting, "You Lebanese bastards," said Joseph Gitani, who, like everybody - on both sides - has had enough. It was his son being attacked.


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