Posted on October 4, 2010

Beauty Pageant Ignites Tribal Street Warfare

Michael Owen, The Australian (Sydney), October 5, 2010

Hundreds of people of African descent spent the holiday weekend fighting on Adelaide streets following a Miss Africa beauty pageant.

The wild weekend of violence culminated in four young men being stabbed during a brawl involving up to 100 people armed with knives, tyre levers, clubs, makeshift batons and a bedpost.

The fight erupted just after midnight yesterday, in a side street off the popular Rundle Street dining strip in the city’s east end, adjacent to a police station. This followed 24 hours of clashes across the CBD, including a brawl involving 150 African men on Saturday night outside a venue in the Hindley Street nightclub precinct.

Police have charged four men–a South Australian, two Victorians and a West Australian. Those stabbed were in a stable condition yesterday after surgery. Chief Inspector John Gerlach said police planning for the Miss Africa pageant on Saturday afternoon, attended by more than 500 Africans from across Australia, had indicated it was “going to be peaceful”.

“After incidents on Saturday night, however, police knew we had some problems. We do have other similar problems from time to time with the African community,” he said.

“We were liaising with our own African community leaders, but with so many people here from interstate, it made it very difficult to liaise with different factions from different community groups.”

Inspector Gerlach said it took police, called in from across Adelaide, up to an hour to quell violence. “There have been other incidents of fights . . . across the CBD over the whole weekend,” he said. “This probably (is) a result of Africans attending the Miss Africa pageant . . . and might have contributed to some of the confrontation between different groups, as a result of African factions.”

Shawn Clarke, the manager of the Norwood Concert Hall, said police were called to a large brawl as patrons left the event on Saturday.

Pageant organiser Adau Khot said the inaugural event, won by 19-year-old Emanuella Anyang, was incident-free.

Sam Thomas, manager of the Austral Hotel in Rundle Street, said he closed the pub yesterday when the fight erupted outside.