Eyewitness recounts violent Sydney protest
The Muslim protests against an American film spread to Sydney on Saturday, 15 September. Zeon Kosmider saw the protest unravel in front of him. Here is his personal account of that afternoon.
When I arrived at Hyde Park on Saturday, I witnessed leaders of a mob, of what looked like around 200 individuals, yelling phrases such as, “Death to the USA!” and “We must destroy all those who insult the prophet!”
Accompanying the shouting were people holding placards saying: “Behead all those who insult the prophet.” Parents were giving children who looked as a young as seven and eight these placards to hold. One child was falling over trying to hold up a placard, which his mother had given to him.
There were also individuals shouting messages of peace, and calling for a peaceful solution. When a couple of leaders called for peace, the end of their speech was met with little cheering and a lot of murmuring.
However, when men stepped forward and shouted, “We must destroy all those who insult the prophet!” the whole crowd cheered in unison, as loud as possible, and all of the protestors went into frenzy. This was the first evidence that I saw that many of these protestors were not content with a peaceful protest.
Sometime after four o’clock, the leaders were beginning to repeat themselves and it seemed as though they were running out of things to say. The leaders seemed uncertain of what to do. At this point the mood started to become very tense and it seemed uncertain if the protest was going to escalate, or simply going to fizzle out.
The anger of the crowd was again intensified when a stranger stood upon a park bench and yelled: “Allah is shit!”
Quickly the crowd moved on him, but the police created a barrier and the man was escorted out of the park. All of a sudden the chants and speeches began again. Following this all of the mothers and children began to move off and leave the park.
Shortly after this another outburst occurred. During a speech about Muslims right to freedom of speech, a stranger a couple of metres in front of me yelled out: “How dare you incite murder in the name of religion.” Instantly the mob turned and rushed at the man, with the closest individual punching him multiple times in the face. Accompanying the rush, a hail of bottles and objects flew at the man, who was hit numerous times. The mob mentality was ferocious and looked as though they would severely injure any individual, and possibly kill him.
Quickly the police reacted and dragged the man out and barricaded the protestors off from him. Protestors briefly scuffled with police and amongst themselves. Many onlookers then left the park, sensing the escalation that was about to occur.
This was the first instance I witnessed where the protestors were openly violent. The instant brutality and violent reaction of the crowd to the man’s statement was not the actions of those who simply wished to voice their opinions. I thought that if the police hadn’t reacted as quickly as they had, the mob may have killed the man.