Rally in Melbourne turns violent as 'cowards' blamed after protest turns ugly

Police are labelling violent protesters cowards after a rally today in Melbourne northern suburbs between anti-Islamic and anti-racism groups exploded into violence.

Seven men have been arrested for riotous behavior and violence, while another two had weapons, including knives, seized, news.com.au reported.

A police officer was among the injured after being exposed to pepper spray. Several other protesters sustained minor injuries.

A member of the True Blue Crew awaits medical treatment after being capsicum sprayed by police. Photo / Getty Images
A member of the True Blue Crew awaits medical treatment after being capsicum sprayed by police. Photo / Getty Images

Police said protesters were hit with Australian flag poles and drenched in pepper spray in ugly clashes between the rival groups. Heavy rain didn't deter the groups in Coburg on Saturday as they rallied against both Islam and racism at Bridges Reserve.

More than 500 people, some draped in the Australian flag and most with their faces covered, had to be separated by riot police on Bell Street in Coburg.

More than 50 police, including the mounted branch, separated the rival groups numerous times during the rally that began about 11am. Some of those at the rally said they were part of the anti-Islamic group UPF and the True Blue Crew.

Others were marching as part of the No Racism in Moreland rally. When they were separated the two groups did their best to find other ways to fight each other, running from one side of the park to another in an attempt to break police lines that blocked entrances between the groups.

Seven people have been arrested so far.

UPF's Blair Cottrell said rival groups had been smashed and had earlier said they would use "force and terror" against their rivals.

When asked how he thought the day went, Mr Cottrell said it was a "great success" but was interrupted by a masked follower when asked if the fighting between the two groups lessened their message.

A member of Victoria Police sprays capsicum spray at the protestors. Photo / Getty Images
A member of Victoria Police sprays capsicum spray at the protestors. Photo / Getty Images

That man yelled abuse at reporters covering the rally, swearing at them and accusing the media of twisting his words.

The anti-racism groups, many of them who also had their faces covered, threw punches and oranges over police lines as well as calling their rivals "Nazi scum".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking in Melbourne ahead of taking part in the Long Walk to the MCG said Australia was a "very harmonious society".

Members of True Blue Crew are met with violence from the leftist group ANTIFA in Melbourne. Photo / Getty Images
Members of True Blue Crew are met with violence from the leftist group ANTIFA in Melbourne. Photo / Getty Images

"So my message today and every day, as your prime minister, is that mutual respect, respect for each other, giving the respect to others that we ask them and expect them to give to us, that is the key to our success, the most successful multicultural society in the world," he told reporters.

Mr Turnbull will also attend the Dreamtime match between Richmond and Essendon for the AFL's Indigenous Round.

The Herald Sun revealed the total bill to taxpayers of policing these protests, following this weekend's rally in Coburg, will top $1.7 million.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

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

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 11 Dec 2016 17:27:19 Processing Time: 600ms