Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Paris end of Cronulla beach

I am late to the piece, but for what it’s worth, here are my four cents on the Cronulla riots:
  1. The violent and random overreaction of the rioters is explainable. Lebanese gangs have been getting away with blue murder for too long. However, a cause is not a justification. Just because the violence was caused by some specific events does not justify it. Responding to violence through uncontrolled mob attacks is wrong and should be condemned.
  2. The proper response to violence is the full use of the law. People who were involved in violently attacking people should be rounded up and locked up. Those who engaged in revenge attacks should be treated similarly. Violence of this kind has gone unpunished for too long. A combination of a weak judiciary, inexperienced senior policemen and 'head-in-the-sand' politicians has let these thugs get out of control. Most of the violence has been perpetrated by Lebanese gangs (see Tim Priest’s extremely prescient article in Quadrant), but the Bra Boys (largely, but not completely, an Anglo-Saxon surfie gang) have also not been stood up to. Hopefully, the events on the weekend will bring a change.
  3. There weren’t enough police on the ground on Sunday. No matter what Iemma says the riots were predictable, increased in size as the day went on and preventable. It is perhaps excusable that not enough police were there in the morning, but more should have been sent in reaction to the large crowd that had gathered. It is amazing how few cops there are in the footage of the riot. Almost none of them appear to have any protective gear and many of them deserve bravery medals for their courage (hat tip: Andrew Leigh) in pulling some Lebs from the unforgiving mob, perhaps saving lives.
  4. Australia is not a racist country. No doubt the crowd included racists on the weekend. But many that did attend were not racially motivated, on the contrary they were attempting to stand up to racist harassment. And, as usual, the violence was conducted by a loud minority. But for the sake of argument let’s say the 5000 attendees were all culpable. That represents about a tenth of one per cent of Sydney; hardly an indictment against Australia’s biggest city or the country itself. The general condemnation from across the political spectrum should confirm Australia’s generally tolerant nature. All nations contain their extremists but I think Australia is lucky that it generally has fewer problems with such troublemakers than most.