Australian charged for race violence

An Australian man has been charged over the circulation of mobile phone text messages inciting racial violence, the first arrest of its kind since race rioting hit Sydney beaches almost two weeks ago.

    Lebanese-Australians suffered beatings and harrassment

    Police said on Thursday the 33-year-old was arrested late on Wednesday and charged with using the phone service to menace, harass or cause offence as well as one count of publishing to incite or urge the commission of a crime.

    Police allege two text messages were repeatedly forwarded by the man which called for people to meet at two Sydney beaches on Sunday, 18 December, one week after the initial violence.

    They did not elaborate on the content of the messages.

    The man was granted bail and is due to appear in court again on 1 February.
    A mob of more than 5000 people gathered on the southern Sydney beach of Cronulla on 11 December after text messages calling on residents to "claim back" the beach from Lebanese visitors and engage in "Leb and wog" bashing were widely circulated.

    The violence in Cronulla, in which Lebanese-Australians were beaten and harassed, sparked revenge attacks elsewhere in the city in which cars, shops and churches were trashed.

    New South Wales state police have previously said authorities were confident they would be able to trace the source of several text messages which were circulating in the wake of the Cronulla riot.

    Howard upbeat

    Prime Minister John Howard expressed optimism on Thursday that there would be no further race riots on Sydney beaches, as a new poll showed that 44% of Australians believe the nation is racist.

    Howard said he saw the attacks
    as a law and order problem

    Howard repeated his assessment of the violence, which saw Lebanese-Australians attacked by a drunken white mob at a suburban beach two weeks ago, as "essentially a law and order problem."

    Asked at a news conference whether Sydney was likely to see further violence on the beaches, Howard replied: "I'm quite optimistic that we won't.

    "I really am quite optimistic that people will see that nothing is ever achieved by violence. Violence is repugnant no matter who engages in it, it is never to be excused and never to be justified.

    "I would encourage Australians to enjoy their Christmas as they traditionally do."

    The violence has, however, forced the cancellation of traditional Christmas carols and celebrations in several areas and prompted police to commit some 800 officers to 24-hour beach patrols for most of the Southern Hemisphere summer.

    Beach business down

    Seaside businesses have complained of lost earnings and Canada, Britain and Indonesia have issued travel warnings of possible further unrest.

    Polls show support for multi-
    culturalism in the country

    The New South Wales state government announced on Thursday it would spend 250,000 dollars (183,000 US) to bring tourists back to beaches left virtually deserted in the immediate aftermath of the racial violence.

    "Obviously, there was a significant impact, people did stay away from the beaches," New South Wales Tourism Minister Sandra Nori said.

    "Now it's time to return to these local beach communities to show your support."

    A new poll published in The Australian newspaper Thursday found that 44% of respondents agreed that the nation was racist while 53% said it boasted a tolerant society.

    Both polls showed strong support for multiculturalism, defined as the presence of different ethnic groups in Australian society.

    However, The Australian's Newspoll survey found that support for multiculturalism has slipped since 1997 from 78% to 70%.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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