The disturbances involving Muslim demonstrators and police that occurred in Sydney's CBD on Saturday, September 15, have generally been referred to in the corporate media as the 'Muslim riots'. The following two eyewitness accounts suggest that it may well have been the police rather than the Muslim protesters who initiated the violence:
News reader: SBS reporter Andrea Clarke was in Hyde Park when protesters had the second major confrontation with police:
Andrea Clarke: We were standing here with about 100 protesters and what felt like several hundred police when the protesters attempted to leave the park peacefully. They were heading into Pitt St Mall and police literally just set upon them. There was a massive skirmish. The protesters responded by throwing bottles and rocks and sticks. Police did not muck around. They pulled out the pepper spray and they took down at least two protesters right in front of me in a fairly violent manner and then the entire group charged across Hyde Park and that's where it really all fell apart. Police divided and conquered. They chased them down the street. They chased them away but not before protesters smashed the windscreen of at least one police car and also received another few injuries, so it was an extremely violent day. Mounted police, dog squad police. You can hear the dog squad behind me... hundreds of officers. It was an extraordinary show of force and it ended violently. (Live update on Sydney protests, SBS 6.30 World News, 15/9/12)
"I was attending a small but engaging rally against internet spying on September 15... at Hyde Park North, when 7 police cars and 4-wheel drives drove into the park and about 20 police officers got out. Protesting members of the Muslim community shouting 'Allahu Akbar' marched into the park and police told us to hurry and pack up. More police ran in phalanx formation towards the Muslim rally. This rally of 300 to 400 people, including women and children, older men and young Muslims, were protesting against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, produced in California, which one woman at the rally described as 'disgusting'. I spoke to 3 young women who were sitting calmly on the ground about why they protested. 'We had to protest this horrible film. If Jesus had been called horrible things in a film, Christians would have protested,' one of the women said. 'The police are being too heavy,' added another woman.
"The police lined up, truncheons extended, behind and in front of the Muslim protesters. One police line then advanced on the protesters, yelling. The young men in the protest moved back. A woman with a pram hurried out past the cops. 'Let's get out of here,' said one of the young women I had been speaking to and they left to get out of the police cordon. Police cars blocked off Macquarie St, near the NSW Parliament, and parts of College St. It was a huge, over the top, show of force by the police. I saw 3 large police dogs. The police kept goading the protesters by shoving them back in coordinated waves of advance. The protesters were chanting through megaphones. Then a bottle was thrown by a young man in the protest and the cops started firing pepper spray into the front row of protesters. They also sprayed it up into the crowd. There were cries of anger and 'Down, Down USA!' chants. One young man was dragged off after he had an allergic reaction to the spray, according to one of the protesters. Two protesters were injured and taken to hospital, said a young woman. A group of male protesters then formed a circle, chanting through the megaphone. They started praying, angry but determined. The police stayed back as a police helicopter hummed overhead.
"Onlookers came to watch the chanting, also watching the police. Young men washed their faces in the Hyde Park fountain and came back to chant. I saw a young Muslim woman of high school age crying. The media focused on the most provocative fundamentalist placard, but I saw an older woman giving out a leaflet which said, 'Islam=peace' and Mohammed=humble'. I met an Iraq war veteran at the rally who said he had left the army because of the crimes the occupation troops committed against the Iraqi people. He said that the community had the right to protest without police violence. Participants in the anti-spying action filmed the police pepper spraying the protesters and the huge line of police. One person who had marched with the rally since it started at Town Hall said: 'The police didn't let us march where we wanted to go.'
"I think that if the police had left the protesters alone they would have marched, chanted and prayed in peace. Instead, the police goaded the protesters, in particular the youth, and so the police are responsible for the clashes that took place. The use of pepper spray and truncheons was extremely aggressive and unprovoked. There was no need to surround the rally and charge the protesters and there was no need for the police to come out in such massive force.
"The police would be unlikely to have used this level of force against most other protests of 300 to 400 people. But Muslim protesters get different treatment. Muslims have been scapegoated and criminalised by state and federal governments and the mainstream media. Muslim communities are the target of intense racism and have been made fair game in this country. Now the protesters, not the police, are being blamed by politicians and the media of the 1% and even more fear and hate is being whipped up against the Muslim population. We should condemn the police who brutally provoked these protesters and squandered thousands of dollars in a massive show of police repression in the heart of Sydney." (Eyewitness: NSW police riot against Muslim rally in Sydney, Rachel Evans, Green Left Weekly, 19/9/12)