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Violent Sydney protest erupts

THE violence that erupted overseas from a video released denigrating the Muslim Prophet Mohammad hit Australian shores during a protest in Sydney.

While the protest started peacefully enough on Saturday afternoon, with some 300 people marching from Sydney Town Hall to Martin Place.

But when the protestors arrived outside a building housing the United States Consulate, some of those in the crowd clashed violently with police.

Police were faced with running battles across the city's CBD over three hours, during which six police officers were assaulted, resulting in eight people being arrested.

Among those in the march were men carrying signs declaring "Behead all those who insult the prophet", one of which was seen in the hands of a child at the protest.

The clashes saw police use capsicum spray, batons and the dog squad in an effort to quell the angry crowd as they were hit with a barrage of glass bottles.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters in Brisbane she absolutely condemned the violence, saying while the film was "truly repulsive", there was never any excuse for such violence.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said the violence was completely unacceptable, and those who reacted violently "should be prepared to face the full force of the law".

"Those extremists on whatever side will face the full consequence of the law - police will be knocking on their doors unless they turn up to local police stations," he said.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said it was an outrage to see police officers attacked by people "conducting themselves in a criminal fashion".

"This is a no nonsense engagement - if you want to act like extremist criminals, we will treat you like extremist criminals," he said.

The protest was not registered, and questions were raised about whether police were adequately prepared for the clash, but Mr Scipione said they knew early enough to deter a more violent clash, sending 80 officers to the scene.

On Sunday, Mr Scipione said he had set up Strike Force McAllister involved two metropolitan police units as well as police investigators and the state command branch.

He said the Strike Force would be analysing footage taken at the protest, as well as CCTV footage from the area, and did not rule out further arrests.

An Australian Federal Police officer and state police officer with the riot squad were both injured and taken to hospital for treatment, with four other officers also injured during the clashes.

The eight people arrested will be charged with various offences including affray, assaulting police and resisting arrest.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Topics:  muslims, police, protest, sydney, violence




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