Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The day that shocked Australia

Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches. What tourists may not know is that behind the beautiful scenery, great waves, nice sandy beaches, there is a dark side to some of the beaches in Sydney.

On Sunday, the whole of Australia and I'm sure the world too, was shocked to see the events that took place in Sydney. As someone who has lived in Sydney for a considerable time, I have never seen anything like it. Thousands of people took to the streets near Cronulla beach to riot. Cronulla beach is roughly 45 minutes drive from Sydney. It is part of the Sutherland Shire.

The rioting happened after an alledged attack on two local lifeguards by groups who are of the Lebanese background. The locals are angry with Lebanese men who frequent the beach. They claimed that Lebanese gangs have harrased and terrorised locals on the beach for many years. And the attack on the two local lifeguards is the last straw. It is like enough is enough and they decided to go out in force on Sunday to 'take back' their beach. That's one part of the story. If you ask any non-locals in that area, be it Lebanese or even Asian, they will tell you a different story. They will say that for many years, they have been asked to get out of Cronula by locals who say that the beach only belongs to them.

The Australian has an editorial which blames the police for the riots. From The Australian:
In an article on this page nearly two years ago ("Don't turn a blind eye to terror in our midst," January 12, 2004), I argued that the increasing frequency of racially motivated attacks on young Australian men and women - including murders, gang rapes and serious assaults by young men of Lebanese Muslim descent - would rise dramatically throughout Australia. These problems remain widespread and have been documented in the ensuing two years.

Yet the NSW Labor Government and police have failed to address the issues in any way apart from the instigation of something called Strike Force Gain, set up to investigate a spate of shootings involving young men of Middle Eastern descent in southwest Sydney last year. This strike force has been largely wound down due to budgetary restraints.
Sharon Verghis, a Malaysian-Indian who lives in the Shire, wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald saying that the locals need to take some responsibility. From The Sydney Morning Herald:
Live long enough in Sutherland Shire and you soon become familiar with the codes and rules, unwritten but understood, that govern the area's most famous attraction, Cronulla Beach.

If you're a white local, it's your beach. If you're wog/Leb/in any way "ethnic", you go to nearby Brighton-le-Sands, or try your luck elsewhere. Geographically, the two beaches are neighbours. Racially and culturally, they may as well be on different planets.
The Daily Telegraph paints a clear picture of how the riots happened. From The Daily Telegraph:
It was only a matter of time until the crowd's thirst for violence would be quenched and the appearance of three teenagers of Middle Eastern descent just before 2pm provided the first targets.

Minutes before he was set upon, The Daily Telegraph overheard an exchange between one of the youths and a man in the crowd. "What are you f...ing doing here?" the youth was asked. "I'm an Australian. I was born here, so shut your mouth," he replied. More of the crowd became aware of the trio's presence and began shouting abuse at them. A local, Glen Steele, became the crowd's spokesman and started chants of "No more Lebs" with his megaphone.
The Advertiser has a selection of some of the best reader feedback they had received regarding the riot. From The Advertiser:
From: Dom
Comment: This is not a race war, this is a war against the youths of all races that aren't disciplined by their elders and the Aussie spirit - standing up not taking anymore. The police and poiticians have had their go and failed miserably several times to address this issue and now the greater society is taking their turn of resolving an issue that they consider ? this wouldn't have happened 40 years ago and the reason is discipline.

From: Julian
Comment: Beach violence is not new to Sydney, back in the sixties when I was a youth from the western suburbs, catching the train to Manly or Cronulla to go for a surf , no sooner would you get of the train and the locals would be on you to get of their beach, this included the lifesavers.

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