Two arrested as mob sets upon protesters outside Mark Latham event in Sydney
A gay and LGBTI rights group says a group attacked peaceful protesters outside a Catholic church in south-west Sydney, where One Nation’s Mark Latham was giving a speech.
Community Action for Rainbow Rights said on Twitter that as they were protesting outside St Michael’s church hall in Belfield, a mob set upon the protesters.
“Several people were punched in the face multiple times & hit with rocks and bottles as they were surrounded by a mob 30 times their size,” Community Action for Rainbow Rights said in a post.
Footage posted by the group on Facebook appeared to show a large, mostly male crowd confronting the rights activists and throwing punches as police officers attempt to hold back the group.
One of the organisers of the LGBTI protest, who requested anonymity due to fears for their safety, said they had intended to simply hold signs on the street opposite the church, make their point, and then leave.
“When we got there, we were full-on mobbed,” the protester told Guardian Australia.
“They grabbed one of the protesters by the hair and threw them to the ground, they punched people in the face, they threw bottles, handfuls of gravel.”
“We were just surrounded by these people who were out for our blood, basically. It took a lot for police to push them back and for us to make our escape.”
New South Wales police said two people were arrested following “a public order incident” involving about 500 people.
“During the event, it is alleged a number of glass bottles and other projectiles were thrown at police,” police said, adding that a male constable was hit by missile, which injured his hand and forced him to go to hospital. A 38-year-old man was pushed to the ground and assaulted.
Police reinforcements gained control of the incident, police said.
The protester said police were overwhelmed and struggled to maintain any sort of line between the two groups.
“It was such an extreme situation,” the protester said. “They barely had a handle on it, they barely had enough people to maintain a line between us and them. These … people kept jumping in and throwing their fists at the top of our heads and stuff like that.”
A 34-year-old man was charged with encouraging the commission of crimes and bailed until 11 April. A 41-year-old man was arrested and charged with common assault and ordered to appear at Bankstown local court on 30 May.
Latham, who is an outspoken critic of discussion of gender diversity in schools, said he had been advised by police not to attend the meeting but believed that not doing so was a “denial of democracy”.
Neither he nor One Nation – which is bidding to gain seats in Saturday’s NSW election – organised the event.
He said he had spoken about religious freedom, parental rights, school education and protecting non-government schools from what he called “alphabet activism”, and had not seen any trouble.
However, he said he was told by police that there had been violence “so I thoroughly condemned that and urged everyone to disperse peacefully”.