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Australia immigration: Rival Melbourne rallies spark clashes

image copyrightReuters
image captionPolice tried to keep the two sides apart with pepper spray

Australian police have used pepper spray to break up clashes between two rival groups battling over race and immigration in Melbourne.

Demonstrators in a march against racism clashed with protesters against immigration, with hundreds of police trying to keep them apart.

Several people were arrested for rioting and assaulting police.

Police condemned the behaviour of groups of demonstrators during the rallies in the suburb of Coburg.

"There was riotous behaviour and it was appalling," Commander Sharon Cowden told reporters, adding there were only minor injuries.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPolice complained of inappropriate and cowardly behaviour of both groups with people wearing masks

The anti-immigration protesters carried banners saying "No refugees, our home, our future", according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

They were vastly outnumbered by demonstrators from the anti-racism group, who hurled abuse such as "Nazi scum, off our streets" at them.

Immigration has been a campaign issue in the run-up to parliamentary elections in July, though the economy, health and education have taken prominence.

  • Australia asylum policy: why is it controversial?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia had the world's "most successful multicultural society" but it was still "a work in progress.

"There is more work to do. This is not something to be complacent about," he told reporters.

This story was updated on 29 May with further details on the size of the demonstration and the Australian election campaign.

Related Topics

  • Racism
  • Australia
  • Malcolm Turnbull