Violent brawl at Melbourne halal festival

A man was taken to hospital after violent clashes broke out at a Halal expo in Melbourne on Sunday.

The ugly scenes were instigated by dozens of protesters, some wearing ski masks, who fought against a group picketing the event.

According to The Herald Sun, witnesses told police more than 30 men from anti-Islamic and anti-fascist groups clashed shortly after 12.30pm (AEST).

Photos from the event show one man lying on the ground bloodied, while other photos show the protesters throwing punches and bashing each other with signs. Meanwhile a number of men wearing ski masks were apprehended by police.

Authorities said one group was protesting outside the showgrounds, where the expo was being held, when a second group "moved through them".

Punches were thrown as police struggled to quell the violence. One witness said the fighting only lasted a few minutes but was "very intense".

A political group calling themselves Party For Freedom, which is opposed to multiculturalism and open borders, was responsible for picketing the expo.

They were reportedly met by anti-fascist group Antifa with members arriving in black clothing and covered faces.

"(Antifa protesters) rocked up in a group and started punching people," witness Erik Anderson told the The Herald Sun.

"I saw some turn up, but then hide as they were waiting for more. Their intention when arriving was to start a fight.

"It wasn't one-sided once it started though.

"There was a lot of punches thrown, brawling people using flag (poles) to push people away," he said.

A man believed to be affiliated with the Party For Freedom group was taken to hospital after suffering head injuries. He was reportedly in a stable, but serious condition.

The Antifa group have previously been involved with protests that marked the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla riots.

Halal expo director Syed Atiq ul Hassan said about 2000 people had peacefully attended the event, which aimed to "spread awareness about the significance of Halal food, products and services".

"They are two groups who have their own issues and they fought," he said. "(It) had nothing to do with us".

An anti-racism rally was held on the same day in Melbourne's CBD.

Members of the anti-racist campaign gathered in Federation Square about 2pm Sunday to protest the far right-wing United Patriots Front, who earlier had announced a rally would be held to mark the anniversary of an anti-Muslim rally they held last year.

The counter protest came in the wake of the UPF group unveiling a "Stop the mosques" banner at the Collingwood AFL game on Friday night, sparking strong condemnation from the AFL, the club and political figures, including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.


Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 22 Oct 2016 20:29:18 Processing Time: 1426ms