Mayor slams ‘racist’ media coverage
MELBOURNE'S South Sudanese community is fed up with being "demonised" by "racist" media coverage and political commentary about youth crime.
Community leader Maker Mayek and eight suburban mayors say the "racist fear-mongering must be stopped" following high-profile coverage of police incidents involving African-Australian youths.
"We cannot continue to tarnish everyone in the Australian-Sudanese community with the actions of a select few," City of Darebin mayor and Greens representative Kim Le Cerf told reporters at a Monday press conference attended by Mr Mayek and counterparts.
"No one condones violence and no one condones the actions of some of these young people."
It comes after tensions over a teenage relationship erupted into violence involving dozens of Sudanese-Australian youths in the northwest suburb of Taylors Hill on Wednesday night, when a police car was damaged and nearby residents were scared.
Police themselves told the media that two separate "gangs" - one from Pakenham and one from Melbourne - had decided to meet at a shopping centre to engage in a fight.
Riot police working on intelligence and reports from social media met the two groups and dispersed them on to buses towards Taylors Hill.
When they got off near Lonzo Park, police say they became violent and began hurling rocks. One rock smashed the rear windscreen of a police vehicle but no arrests were made.
Last month, young Sudanese-Australian woman Laa Chol was allegedly murdered at an out-of-control party in a short-term stay city apartment. Some politicians and commentators have blamed "African gangs" for the incidents but Mr Mayek says his community is being "demonised" in the lead up to the November 24 state election.
"The community feels strongly put in harm's way because of all this media frenzy … people are being hassled in the supermarket and public spaces," he told AAP on the sidelines of Monday's press conference.
"We've accepted that we've got some disenfranchised young people that are going out there and causing problems. So that's accepted, there's no dispute about this."
Mr Mayek said media "pounced on" the Taylors Hill event "and it was reported in such a negative way".
"There was no damage done or anybody hurt apart from the police property."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull previously said Melbourne had an issue with Sudanese gangs.
Earlier this year, Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton sparked derision when he claimed the gangs were making people afraid to go out to dinner at night.