Australia

Police on alert for anti-social behaviour at Melbourne festival after St Kilda scuffles

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Victoria Police will be at a Melbourne Lunar New Year festival to try and prevent anti-social behaviour a day after rallies at St Kilda.

A day after stemming violence on St Kilda's foreshore between right-wing extremists and anti-racism campaigners, police will have a strong presence at another Melbourne event.

Officers will patrol the Lunar New Year festival in St Albans on Sunday to prevent anti-social behaviour.

Some of the participants in the right-wing protest at St Kilda on Saturday have suggested on social media they would show up to the event in the northwest of Melbourne.

Police on keep protesters apart on the St Kilda foreshore in Melbourne.
Police on keep protesters apart on the St Kilda foreshore in Melbourne.
AAP

Superintendent David Jones said police would arrest anyone who disrupts the festivities for Melbourne's Vietnamese and Chinese communities.

"We know that this is a significant celebration for our Vietnamese and Chinese communities, and we look forward to being there to help hundreds of festival-goers feel safe," he said.

“Our police presence will also send a clear message to anyone thinking about attending the event to cause trouble.

“We will not accept any unwanted or anti-social behaviour that ruins celebrations for anyone else.

“If you attend the event and behave in a disruptive manner, you will be swiftly arrested and held to account."

Police on keep protesters apart on the St Kilda foreshore in Melbourne, Saturday, January 5, 2019.
Police on keep protesters apart on the St Kilda foreshore in Melbourne, Saturday, January 5, 2019.
AAP

Hundreds of police spent most of the day at the popular St Kilda beach on Saturday keeping the opposing groups apart, with three people arrested and others detained and moved on.

One person was arrested for possessing drugs, another for breaching bail and a third for carrying weapons - large fishing sinkers - Victoria Police's Superintendent Tony Silva said.

Officers also detained several people who were then released to try and prevent them causing trouble at the tightly-controlled rallies on the foreshore.

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Protesters gather at St Kilda beach
Protesters gather at St Kilda beach

Hundreds of police took to the air, sea and land to control the event, including the dog, mounted and riot squads, from Saturday morning until 4.30pm.

"I certainly felt we had it under control," Supt Silva told reporters.

Several hundred people came for the rallies, the first held at 12pm by anti- racism campaigners ahead of a right-wing event at 1pm organised by convicted criminals Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson.

Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, who used the Nazi-associated phrase "final solution" in his maiden speech, stood with right-wing extremist Cottrell at the rally.

Senator Anning, who now sits as an independent after being booted from the Katter Australia Party following his defection from Pauline Hanson's One Nation, uploaded several videos to his Facebook page from the rally.

In the videos, Senator Anning stands with Cottrell, poses for photos and makes inflammatory remarks about migration.

The far-right group chanted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi" while the counter protesters yelled "Migrants welcome, racists are not".

After speeches from both sides, the opposing groups dispersed onto nearby streets and to the front of Luna Park, with minor scuffles breaking out.

At least one person was pepper-sprayed.

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Police on standby ahead of St Kilda beach protest
Police on standby ahead of St Kilda beach protest

Anti-racist activists drove past the event with loud speakers on the tray of a ute, shouting slogans, but when it stopped because of the crowd it was set upon by the opposition.

Cottrell and Erikson in 2017 were convicted and fined for inciting contempt and ridicule of Muslims by making a video in which they beheaded a dummy with a toy sword in a protest against the building of the Bendigo mosque.

Cottrell is appealing.

The pair claim the rally is a response to recent incidents in which youths have mugged people along the bay.

Erikson last week confronted a group of young men of African background who were playing soccer at St Kilda, prompting police intervention.

St Kilda and nearby Caulfield, areas with high Jewish populations, have also experienced a blitz of anti-semitic vandalism.

The Emmy Monash Jewish aged-care centre in Caulfield was plastered with a swastika by neo-Nazi group Antipodean Resistance and a theatre graffitied in recent days.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said in a statement he condemned in the strongest possible terms the apparent racist and race-based motivation behind the far-right rally.

"All Australians have a right to protest peacefully ... It is, however, never acceptable for people to act or conduct themselves in ways that are likely to, or intended to, inflame and incite racial fear and tensions, hatred and violence."

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