Indians Protest Attacks for Third Night

Di Bain, AM (Australia), June 11, 2009

More angry scenes erupted in Sydney’s west overnight as tensions increased between local Indian students and the Lebanese community.

About 70 students gathered in the heart of Harris Park, but this time they were confronted by local Lebanese youths.

Police were forced to hold back the angry mob in the third straight night of protests.

The Indian protesters continue to say they are being attacked by Lebanese youths and police are ignoring their pleas for protection.

A man was issued with a court notice for carrying an offensive weapon after being allegedly found with a piece of timber during a police search.

Earlier, Parramatta Council held a meeting with police, India’s consul general and members of Sydney’s Indian community, with organisers saying students had agreed to stop protesting.

But the flare-up that occurred after the meeting has left Indian leaders exasperated and some locals are concerned there could be fresh outbreaks of violence in the backstreets of western Sydney.

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for calm Wednesday, assuring the Indian community that his country was still one of the safest study destinations in the world despite a series of attacks on Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia insists the attacks are not racial, but rather “a regrettable part of urban life,” as Rudd put it in a radio interview on Wednesday.

Authorities say the Indian students are victims of opportunistic criminal gangs.

“Quite often, they are catching trains home from work late in the evening as many do not have access to cars,” said Simon Overland, chief commissioner for the Victoria state police. “They are often traveling alone and this is leaving them vulnerable to crime.”

The Indian community, however, alleges gangs are specifically targeting Indians. Activists say there have been about 1,500 attacks a year for the last three years–but lately, they have picked up.

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Saying that they are tired of waiting for the Australian government to take action, Indian students–armed with bats–patrolled subway stations in the worst-affected suburbs Monday and Tuesday night.

Monday night, flag-waving Indians attacked a carload of Lebanese men in retaliation for the alleged assault of two Indian men by a group of ethic Lebanese earlier in the day.

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“It’s unacceptable for anyone to commit an act of violence against any student of any ethnicity anywhere in Australia,” Rudd said in the interview with the station 3AW. “But it’s equally unacceptable for so-called ‘reprisal attacks’ and for so-called ‘vigilante’ action as well.”

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