Flags burned at Melbourne racism protests

Right wing protesters from the UPF and the True Blue Crew march to Carlton Gardens. (AAP) Source: AAP

There have been scuffles at the latest Melbourne protests between rival groups but no repeat of recent violence.

Masked members of a splinter anti-fascism group have set Australian flags on fire and scuffled with police and media in the latest Melbourne rally between rival protest groups.

However, there was no repeat of the violent clashes seen at recent protests as police kept the opposing groups separate on Sunday.

About two dozen people dressed in black and wearing masks still managed to interrupt an anti-Islam rally, setting flags alight and scuffling with news photographers.

A man who tried to stop the flag burning said those involved were anarchists who did not represent the no racism rally.

"These masked idiots burning flags do not represent the counter protest," he told reporters.

About 120 supporters of the True Blue Crew, who describe themselves as a pro-Australian group against the Islamisation of the country, and United Patriots Front had planned to march through the CBD.

But 200 people joined a Campaign Against Racism and Fascism counter-protest outside parliament first.

The True Blue protesters tried to head to the front of the building from their meeting place in the parliamentary gardens but the exit had been blocked off by police.

They instead marched to the Carlton Gardens and were followed by members of the splinter group.

Superintendent David Clayton said police viewed it as a successful operation as they were in the main able to keep the rival protesters apart.

"There were splinter groups who were causing spot fires," he told reporters.

Three people were arrested: two for assaulting each other in a fight and one for damaging a news photographer's camera.

Another photographer had to fight off one of the masked protesters.

No weapons were found in more than 300 searches.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the government will introduce public order laws applying additional penalties for wearing masks while engaged in riotous behaviour.

"If you commit a violent act and you are wearing a mask, then you will receive a significantly higher penalty because of the cowardly nature of wearing that mask," Mr Andrews said.

"You will feel the full force of the law because hardworking Victorians and their government are sick and tired of having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, indeed millions of dollars, to deal with this sort of riotous behaviour."

Supt Clayton said police welcomed talks with government about laws to help officers deal with people who intend to cause disruption or violent behaviour.

Source AAP

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