Australian police prepare for violence

Mobile telephone text and e-mail messages calling for racial violence in four Australian states circulated on Wednesday as another overnight security operation began in Sydney to maintain peace in beachside suburbs.

More than 450 police took to the streets in Australia's largest city for a second night on Wednesday, erecting roadblocks to check drivers moving into areas of previous unrest, such as Cronulla Beach in the south.

Sydney's racial violence erupted at Cronulla last Sunday when some 3,000 people, some yelling racist chants, attacked people of Middle East appearance, saying they were defending their beach from Lebanese youth gangs. Police said white supremacists incited violence at Cronulla.

Drunk mobs of youths, some wrapped in Australian flags, said they were defending their beach after lifesavers were attacked. They believe the attackers were of Lebanese background.

Lebanese and Muslim youths retaliated with two nights of violence in several different beachside suburbs.

The burning to the ground of a church hall on Tuesday night, smashing of church windows and shots fired at a Catholic school prompted authorities on Wednesday to say they would focus on places of worship to ensure they were safe from violence.

"Special attention will be paid to places of worship, our churches and our schools," said Morris Iemma, premier of the state of New South Wales.

The New South Wales state parliament will hold an emergency sitting on Thursday to pass legislation giving police extra powers to allow them to "lock down" suburbs and areas of unrest in Sydney and impose alcohol prohibition on areas.

Police said they were investigating text messages inciting racial violence in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Some messages called for racial violence next Sunday, police said. Text messages were used to incite mob violence in Cronulla last weekend.

NSW Police Minister Carl Scully said police were preparing for more unrest this weekend, Reuters reports.


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