Youth Rivalry Brings Chaos to Northwest Melbourne Suburb, Riot Police Called

A large number of youths gathered in Melbourne’s Taylors Hill on the night of Aug. 8, causing disturbance significant enough to warrant police intervention. The crowd was dispersed after rocks were pelted towards police, damaging a police car. Public property was also damaged.

Police were alerted to the disturbance by reports that a large number of youths had gathered in Lonzo Park around 5.30 p.m. local time.

In the commotion, those on the scene reported a range of estimates of the crowd size, with Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton saying he believed that between 20-30 youths had gathered, while residents and media reported a crowd of around 50-100 youths. The youths were described as being from Melbourne’s Sudanese community, with some still in their school uniforms, Sky News reported.

Police had been monitoring the youths at the park but were forced to intervene when the gathering grew to violence. Police in riot gear dispersed the crowd and a police helicopter was called to assist at the site.

The youths were moved away from the area “a short time later,” according to a police statement.

As they attempted to disperse the crowd, rocks were thrown at police, smashing the rear window of a police car. A nearby bus stop was also smashed by some of the youths. During the incident, roads in the area had to be closed and locals who were out venturing in the area were told by police to go inside and lock their doors for safety.

An organised fight between two groups of youths turned to mayhem with riot police called to control dozens of youths running wild. Read more: https://www.9news.com.au/national/2018/08/08/22/38/melbourne-taylors-hill-youths-pelt-rocks-at-police-in-huge-gathering?ocid=Social-9News#9News | http://9News.com.au

Posted by 9 News on Thursday, August 9, 2018

Initially, police had dispersed the youths away from a shopping centre a few suburbs away before the youths moved to Lonzo Park.

Victoria Police Commander Tim Hansen said investigators are now combing through CCTV around the area to identify several suspects. No arrests have been made as yet.

The following day, police monitored the Taylors Hill area on horseback.

Prior Knowledge

Police said they were already aware an event would unfold because they had been monitoring certain individuals on a watchlist who were involved in the chaos on the night, SkyNews reported.

From posts to social media, police were alerted ahead of time that two rival groups from Melbourne’s Melton and Pakenham areas were to confront each other over a teenage relationship issue.

Taylors Hill in Melbourne, Australia
An altercation broke out in Taylors Hill, Melbourne, on the evening of Aug. 8, involving youths described as being members of the Sudanese community. The incident prompted police intervention where rocks were pelted and a police car was damaged. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Hansen told Seven’s Sunrise on Aug. 9 that there had been tension brewing between two groups of young males.

“We got some intelligence last night that these tensions were simmering away and likely to come to a head in the western suburbs,” Hansen said.

Hansen said the altercation that occurred on Aug. 8 was not a widespread problem in Melbourne.

“It is in pockets,” he told Seven’s Sunrise. “We are certainly engaged with some of these persons that are operating in what you would call street gangs, I guess,” he said.

The night’s unrest made headlines around Australia, with multiple media reports telling of residents’ growing concern for their own safety in the affected areas.

Witness Accounts

One resident in the area, a young mother, drove home around 7 p.m. when she said around 40 youths of African appearance started running towards her car.

“They just started running towards our car and across our grass because police were chasing them from the other side,” the resident, Ashlee, told the Herald Sun.

Ashlee told the Herald Sun she was surprised that the majority of those gathered were young females. She said the police were trying to disperse the gathering, “but every time they did, the girls just came back.”

A 17-year-old witness told The Australian that the youths did not appear to be affected by the police presence.

“There were just so many [of them],” he said. “Some said ‘what are you looking at, you white trash’ … They said they wanted to break into our house … This was just so crazy. It went on for a couple of hours.”

Another witness, David Driscoll, told the Herald Sun that a large group of African youths “ran around the streets screaming.”

“They were screaming, ‘the police can’t touch us, they can’t do anything,’” he said. “There were police cars everywhere with their lights on and the helicopter was around for [about] an hour,” he said.

One resident in Bronte Way told the Herald Sun that her house was hit with rocks on the night. “About 100-150 African youths [were] on the basketball court, yelling and chanting and jumping on top of electricity boxes at the park,” she told the Herald Sun. “They were out of control.”

Commentary

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews praised the police for their quick and appropriate response to the chaos.

“It would have been very, very distressing for local residents, and they can be assured we will continue to provide Victorian Police with every single thing they need in order to fight crime and make the community safer,” Andrews said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said that the disturbance was “totally unacceptable, people deserve to live in peace … I hope that police get all the support that they need to solve these issues so that communities can live in peace rather than fear for their lives.”

Hansen told 3AW that police are taking a “zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour.”

“We’re really disappointed with it, and you’ll certainly see some movement in the investigation.”

Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Sydney radio station 2GB the Taylors Hill incident was “unacceptable.”

“This is our country, everybody, regardless of your skin colour, your religion, you abide by the one law… it’s against the law to start hurling rocks at police cars,” he told 2GB. “In 2018, having people riot like this, a scene from some other part of the world is unacceptable.”

Sudanese Community leader and lawyer Maker Mayek told Sky News in an interview on Aug. 8, “It was a very unfortunate situation and it is one that we, as members of the community, denounce.”