Police break up Indian student protest in Melbourne

June 1st, 2009 - 12:36 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

Police in the Victorian capital of Melbourne have used force to break up a protest by Indian students angry at a recent spate of what they claim are racially based attacks.

Several thousand Indian students gathered in central Melbourne to protest the attacks, before a few hundred linked arms and staged a sit-in, blocking a major city intersection.

Police say they have detained 18 students for breaching the peace and a 22-year-old man was arrested and charged with riotous behavior and criminal damage.

Victorian police Chief Commissioner, Simon Overland, said an officer was bitten on the hand while trying to move the students.

“There were blows, as I said because arms had been linked, and there was a lot of resistance going on,” he said.

“If someone inadvertently got hit in the mouth and got injured I regret that, but that came about on the part of the actions of the demonstrators after they’d been given every opportunity to leave the area.”

The protest was organized by the Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) but this morning FISA spokesman Gautam Gupta said the rally was hijacked by people with their own agenda.

FISA said in a statement on its website the rally aimed to create an awareness about an increasing number of what it called “hate crimes” in Victoria and to promote racial harmony and peace.

“I think absolutely they should have left because we are seeking peace, we are seeking non-violence, and we should be leading by example. And this is no way to lead by example,” he said.

“Unfortunately the whole thing was hijacked by people with their own intention,” Gupta said.

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