Police use new powers in night of Sydney unrest

SYDNEY - Armed with new powers, a police task force has arrested 19 people in a night of unrest in Sydney in which an elderly man was bashed with a crowbar, a molotov cocktail was thrown at police and one officer was injured in a brawl.

The arrests were made by officers attached to Operation Seta, created following a race riot at North Cronulla Beach in Sydney's south on Sunday and days of retaliatory attacks.

Assistant commissioner Dave Owens said police used increased powers rushed through NSW Parliament yesterday to set up check points on a number of main thoroughfares in Sydney's southern suburbs.

A molotov cocktail was thrown at police in "a disturbing incident" at Dickens Road, Ambarvale, south west of Sydney, about 10pm, he said.

"Police conducted a search of the area and located a number of other incendiary devices and what appeared to be stockpiled stones," Mr Owens said.

Although no arrests were made over that incident, two men, aged 24 and 23, were charged with making explosives with intent ot injure after police found seven molotov cocktails in a Cronulla unit, about 6pm.

A 46-year-old man was also charged with common assault after an elderly man was bashed with a crowbar by a group of men at Riverwood in Sydney's south west about 7pm.

Police were also called to shopping centres at Marrickville, Castle Hill and Newcastle where crowds of men had gathered.

They were dispersed without incident, but a police officer was injured as he broke up a brawl at a shopping centre in Wetherill Park about 8.30pm.

An 18-year-old man was charged with a range of offences including two counts of assaulting a police officer.

Shortly before 10.30pm, police were also called to a fast food outlet at Parramatta where 23 car loads of men in a carpark were threatening patrons with baseball bats.

A 22-year-old man was arrested after he was allegedly found with a hammer and screwdriver.

He was charged with possessing offensive weapons.

Two other men, aged 19 and 25, were also arrested about 6pm as they tried to drive into Cronulla "to help the cause", Mr Owens said.

They were charged with a range of offences including driving a stolen car and drug possession.

Police say they are continuing preparations for the weekend in case of more violence.

Police numbers will more than double from the 450 last weekend to 1000 on Saturday and 1500 on Sunday.

NSW Parliament yesterday passed the Law Enforcement Legislation Public Safety Act 2005, giving police increased powers to lock down some suburbs, close pubs, enforce alcohol bans and confiscate cars.

Premier Morris Iemma recalled parliament from its summer break after rioters attacked people of Middle Eastern descent at Cronulla on Sunday, and members of Sydney's Lebanese community carried out apparent retaliatory attacks on Sunday and Monday nights.

- AAP

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