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Sixteen people have been arrested after the race riot in Sydney yesterday.

Anger spills over ... a crowd shows their anger towards police officers during unrest at Cronulla beach yesterday. (Getty Images)

Police on alert after Sydney race riot

Road closures will be put in place tonight and the police air wing and mounted officers have already been deployed to certain Sydney suburbs after yesterday's riots, the New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says.

Police say a total of 16 people have been arrested on 41 charges arising from the violence in the Sydney beach-side suburb of Cronulla.

Commissioner Moroney says curfews and a total ban on alcohol will be considered if necessary.

The New South Wales Government has said white supremacists were involved in the violence.

"There appears to be an element of white supremacists and they really have no place in mainstream Australian society," Police Minister Carl Scully said at a news conference.

"Those sort of characters are best placed in Berlin 1930s, not in Cronulla 2005."

Mr Scully says Commissioner Moroney has assured him that police have sufficient powers and resources to deal with any further outbreaks of violence.

He says the laws may be strengthened once police have fully reviewed the weekend's events.

"I would be astonished if, when the dust has settled, the commissioner doesn't bring forward some ideas for improving how you might deal with this," he said.

"You've always got to learn, but at this stage his advice is, he doesn't need any powers, tomorrow, or next week, or even next month."

A police task force has been set up to identify people who took part in the riots.

There are reports that text messages are being sent out already calling on similar action to take place next Sunday.

'No underlying racism'

Prime Minister John Howard has condemned the violence but says he does not believe there is underlying racism in Australia.

Mr Howard describes the mob violence as sickening and deplorable, saying it should be repudiated by all Australians, but he says it's important not to jump to conclusions about the unrest.

"I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country, I have always taken a more optimistic view of the character of the Australian people,' he said.

Mr Howard says the attacks are sickening.

"Attacking people on the basis of their race, their appearance, their ethnicity is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians," he said.

Mr Howard has rejected claims his government's approach to home-grown terrorism provoked the violence.

"It is impossible to know how individuals react but everything this government has said about home-grown terrorism has been totally justified," he said.

Charges

The 16 arrested face charges including malicious damage, assaulting police, affray, threatening violence and resisting arrest.

All those charged were arrested as part of a police operation dealing with disturbances at North Cronulla, Maroubra and Brighton-Le-Sands yesterday.

They are due to appear in court next month.

A meeting of community leaders and the NSW Government has ended, with the Premier Morris Iemma saying they'll work together to take the temperature down in Sydney's southern suburbs.

Mr Iemma met this afternoon with senior police, Lebanese community leaders and local council members to discuss the racially fuelled violence, urging them to take a message of unity and respect to their communities.

The Premier opened the discussion saying while the Government has total confidence in the police, everyone must play a part.

"While the police protect our streets and will continue to do so, there is a challenge for all of us as community leaders," he said.

"We all have a role to play in defending our Australian values. To use our influence and our authority, in our suburbs, streets and our beaches, to protect our Australian values.

"I want everyone to go into their communities, to help in the challenge to do just that."

Greens

The Australian Greens leader, Bob Brown, has called on the Prime Minister to do more to promote multiculturalism after yesterday's violence.

Senator Brown says the episode is damaging Australia's reputation.

"The job of dealing with violence is a police job, but this was much wider than that yesterday," he said.

"It was the use of race to stir up mob sentiment and violence racism was central to it and it's damaging our reputation right around the world."

Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says Australian multiculturalism is alive and well.

"This is simply criminal behaviour, that's all there is to it," he said.

In other developments:

  • New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma says violence over the weekend in Sydney's south was the ugly face of racism, with the State Government confirming that so-called "white supremacists" were involved in the riots. (Full Story)
  • Prime Minister John Howard has condemned the outbreak of violence across several south-eastern Sydney suburbs. (Full Story)
  • New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has joined police in condemning yesterday's racist attacks on Sydney's Cronulla beach. (Full Story)
  • Senior police say more people will be arrested as officers identify those involved in racially-motivated violence across several Sydney suburbs. (Full Story)


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NSW Premier Morris Iemma has joined police in condemning racist attacks at Cronulla beach.

The Sutherland Shire mayor, Kevin Schreiber, says he is devastated by the violent behaviour displayed over the weekend.

Prime Minister John Howard has condemed the outbreak of violence across several south-eastern Sydney suburbs.

Charlie Khouri, the spokesperson for the United Australian Lebanese Movement, says he was surprised by the weekend violence.

A day of race rioting in Sydney engulfed six Sydney beachside suburbs, with 28 people arrested, 25 injured, and one in hospital suffering stab wounds.

Audio Related Audio

The Sydney beach turf war has turned a day of nationalism into a racist free-for-all never before seen in modern day Australia. Thousands of young people converged on Cronulla beach to lay claim to a patch of sand that has become a lightning rod for ethnic divisions.

Lebanese Australians have condemned the weekend events, describing the violence on all sides as disgusting.

While the events of yesterday are the worst seen in many years, it is certainly not the first time Sydney has witnessed such violent events. Joseph Lo Bianco, professor of Language and Literacy from the Melbourne University, has researched this kind of behaviour and the reasons behind it.

Some of the talkback callers to ABC Radio around the country have pointed to the racial violence that erupted at Cronulla yesterday, as a product of divisive politics.

Finance corrrespondent Stephen Long grew up not far from the Cronulla beaches where the riots took place. He gives a personal view of the area, and the prejudice underlying the current tensions.

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