‘Rival African and Pacific Islander Gangs’ Clash After Family-Orientated Moomba Festival

Alex Chapman and Charlie Coë, Daily Mail, March 11, 2019

African and Pacific Islander teenage gangs went to war in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Witnesses watched on in horror as hundreds of riot squad officers were forced to use capsicum spray and batons to break up a series of organised brawls across the city.

One man likened the scenes to ‘something out of Braveheart’, claiming officers could do little but watch on as the clashing groups fought outside Flinders Street Station.

‘I saw about 5 massive clashes, with the Islanders coming out on top in all of them. Pound for Pound they were formidable and unstoppable,’ he wrote online.

‘They would charge at each other randomly. Like something out of Braveheart.’

Dramatic footage posted online showed more than a dozen teenagers sprinting down a set of escalators at Flinders Street station.

They appeared to corner a smaller group of boys and lay into them with flying kicks and punches as others encouraged them on from a distance.

Just two minutes up the road at St Paul’s Cathedral, dozens of young men and women watched on as a topless man threw punches at the crowd.

Police arrested five people following three separate incidents, which they believe were all linked.

The organised street brawls started from 10pm and carried through until 2am on Sunday night, police confirmed.

The brawls followed Melbourne’s notorious Moomba Festival, a three-day free family event run by the council.

Moomba Festival has been spoiled by youth gang violence for the past four years.

Police arrested 24 people in 2016, and more than 50 in 2017 when young thugs from the Apex gang ran riot through the city centre.

Saturday night’s violent incidents came despite Victoria Police pre-empting trouble surrounding the family-friendly event, promising a dedicated police presence throughout the city.

In other footage taken next to Flinders Street Station by a passer-by, a young woman could be seen being allegedly thrown to the ground by an officer after she had walked up to him.

The 15-year-old who filmed the fight said officers had blocked off a platform because of a fight when the woman went up and tried to negotiate with them.

‘She tried to get past them because she kept saying she was in a rush to catch her train, it was real late,’ he said.

‘When she walked up to the cops he told her ‘back off’, she just said ‘I’m going this way’.’

‘She kept trying to get past him, that’s when he threw her towards a wall.’

‘Her face was all bruised and beaten , she had a bruise on the right of her lip straight away.’

His mother said the incident left her doubting whether her children could have faith in the authorities.

‘My son’s 15 and my daughter’s nearly 12, if they can’t trust police then what?’ she said.

‘If that was my daughter, oh my god.’

In response, Victoria Police said the incident showed the need for ‘members of the public to stand back to give police the space to ensure a safe and timely outcome for all parties’.

The incident will however be investigated, a spokesperson confirmed.

Vision also showed a young woman who appeared to have been affected by capscium spray being attended by officers.

‘On each occasion two groups of youths began fighting before Public Order Response Team and Uniform police immediately intervened,’ a police spokesperson said.

Three people were arrested for assault over the course of the night, and two others for drunken behaviour.

A further two penalty notices were also issued, one for riotous behaviour and one for weapons offences.

Last year African gang violence ruined Moomba for the third year in a row, with dozens of teenagers caught on camera charging onto a tram with police in hot pursuit.

Footage from the 2018 festival also showed girls trading punches while frightened visitors ducked for cover.

But police said there were only a small number of incidents and their operation was successful.

Federal Liberal MP Jason Wood said police were reluctant to make arrests due to fear of criticism.

Police arrested more than 50 people in 2017 when Apex thugs ran riot through the city centre.

Weapons including knives, scissors, a taser and a knuckle duster were seized after officers conducted more than 800 searches.

In 2016 officers were forced to deploy pepper spray and arrest 24 people as organised brawls broke out in front of horrified families.

Approximately 150 youths stole phones, goaded police and terrorised the public.

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