The Australian (Sydney), September 10, 2009
COMMUNITY tensions are running high in the western Sydney suburb of Auburn after police from the Middle Eastern organised crime squad raided four houses during the Muslim festival of Ramadan.
The raids on Tuesday evening prompted a gathering of about 150 mostly Middle Eastern youths and then the arrival of about 100 police.
Police have denied their timing was culturally insensitive and labelled angry mobs who threatened police during the raids as “cowardly”.
Auburn mayor Irene Simms yesterday said she did not know the ethnicity of those arrested by police, but said locals were sick of a trouble-making minority dragging down the suburb’s name.
She said protests about the interruptions of religious rituals were “no excuse” in the face of criminal allegations, adding that immigrants to Australia caught breaking their citizenship oath by committing crimes should be kicked out of the country.
“I think the police did an exceptional job in this situation,” Ms Simms said. “No religion condones breaking the law.”
Detectives from the Middle Eastern organised crime squad seized a hand gun, stun guns, cannabis, ecstasy, pills, a large sum of cash and ammunition from three residences in Cumberland Road and one home in Normanby Street, in Auburn, at about 6pm on Tuesday. This is the time Muslims observing Ramadan break their daily fast.
As news of the raids spread, an angry crowd of up to 150 people gathered on Cumberland Rd, prompting detectives to call in the riot squad, the dog squad and Polair.
Police said the crowd was dispersed after a standoff and three people were arrested.
A heavily-tattooed Lebanese local, who asked to remain anonymous because his police record was “as long as the street”, said police in Auburn were racist and should have had the courtesy not to interrupt
the breaking of a fast during Ramadan.
“They target the same families, they don’t care if your mum’s in the shower, they’ve got no respect,” he said.
Detective Chief Superintendent Ken McKay made no apology for the raids, saying search warrants were executed in response to a shooting incident on the weekend. The man injured in the shooting had refused to co-operate with police in their investigations, but Superintendent McKay said police had “a very good idea of what occurred and why”.
Police allege a police officer was punched in the face during the raids by a 25-year-old man, who was yesterday granted bail after being charged with one count of wounding an officer and two counts of assaulting police.
A 17-year-old boy arrested in the raids, also charged with assault, was granted bail to appear in Parramatta Children’s Court on September 29.
A woman was also arrested and is expected to face charges in the future.