Flag row rocks Australia concert

Organisers say national flag has been used to incite race tensions.

    Big Day Out organisers said the flag had been adopted as "gang colours" in recent race clashes [EPA]

    In comments reported in Australian newspapers on Monday, West said his concerns were raised by some rioters in the beach clashes who had draped the Australian flag over their shoulders.
    "The Australian flag was being used as gang colours," he said. "It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it."

    The Big Day Out is Australia's biggest
    annual musical event [GALLO/GETTY]

    But calls for concert goers to leave flags at home have drawn condemnation from among others, John Howard, the Australian prime minister, who said concert organisers were trying to impose their own political views on fans.
    "The event organisers should not ram their peculiar political views down the throats of young Australians who are only interested in a good day out," he said.
    Criticism also came from the head of an Australian war veterans group.
    Don Rowe, president of the New South Wales Retired Servicemen’s League, the organisers of the Big Day Out were trying to bar a symbol which had served throughout two world wars.
    "Using the Cronulla riots as an excuse to outlaw it is an absolute bloody outrage," Rowe told local newspapers.
    The website for the Big Day Out series said the flag was not banned outright, but security staff were "discouraging its use".
    Responding to criticism concert, producers said they had no intention of disrespecting the symbolism of the flag and blamed media reports for quoting them inaccurately.
    They said recent events had seen "increased incidence of flags brandished inconsiderately and this has led to increased tension".
    It added: "The substantial increase of flags brought to large public events such as the Big Day Out is becoming excessive and has created complex issues including but not limited to sight line problems."

    The call for fans not to bring flags was "simply a request, not a command", the producers said.
    The Big Day Out is held at multiple venues in Sydney and other Australian cities and in the past has drawn some of the world's biggest bands, including Pearl Jam, The Ramones, The Foo Fighters and Chemical Brothers.
    This year's concert sold out in hours and headline band Jet planned to take the stage with a black-and-white version of the Australian flag on set.
    The usual staging of the concert on the January 26 Australia Day national holiday has already been moved forward one day to avoid any nationalist fervour.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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