Monday, December 19, 2005
A number of rallies were held in Sydney on Sunday to protest against what they describe as racism in the community. The National Union of Students organised an event at Town Hall, and the Ted Noffs Foundation held an event in Belmore Park later in the day. About 2,000 people marched through Sydney, and there were also gatherings in Newcastle, Brisbane, and Melbourne.
Lebanese Australian student Chadi Sankary rejected alcohol as an excuse for racist and violent behaviour. “People are not willing to admit that this is about racism,” he said. “You can’t be under the influence of alcohol and paint your massive banners with racial slogans on them or you can’t make t-shirts while you’re drunk so it can’t be accepted as an excuse.”
Matt Noffs, of the Ted Noffs Foundation, said that the solution to racism lies with the people, not politicians. He also criticised the weeks police operation, saying that it will not provide a long-term solution. “I don’t feel that the responses that have been made during the week have actually helped the situation,” he said. “They might have suppressed some of the violence that is sure to happen in these situations anyway but they certainly don’t look at the solutions.”
Tim Longhurst, one of the organisers, said that the rally showed the true nature of Sydney as a tolerant city. “What we saw today wasn’t new. Sydney has always been a place where people do get along, and today they came out in force to show that,” Mr Longhurst said.
In a statement supporting the rally, Socialist Alliance linked the Cronulla riots to government policies and actions. “The riots reflect the rising racism in Australia, a tide that has been fostered by the Howard government’s policies and propaganda that criminalise and lock up refugees, dehumanise and bomb the Iraqi people, and define all Muslims and Middle-Eastern Australians as potential terrorists.”
One Sydney blogger criticised the rallies because they focused on racism against minority groups such as Lebanese, instead of racism in general. “They’re picking on only one face of the disgusting racism that has come to a boil in this city recently, and tried to say they’re taking a stand against racism,” he said, calling the rally “the racist anti-racism protest.”