Two charged after violent protest at Latham speech

One of three men arrested outside Mark Latham's speaking venue has had a charge against him dropped.

One of three men arrested outside Mark Latham's speaking venue has had a charge against him dropped. Photo: Supplied

Two people have been charged after a violent clash outside a politically charged rally at a Sydney church where NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham was due to speak.

The riot squad and operational support officers were called in to disperse the crowd after the violent street protest outside St Michael’s Church Belfield, in Sydney’s south-west, on Tuesday.

About 15 people from activist group Community Action for Rainbow Rights had turned up to protest what they were expecting to be an anti-trans speech. Instead they were met by about 500 Christian Lives Matter followers, mostly men.

“All these cars were turning up and people coming down the street and then it just seemed to go a bit violent. Screaming and shouting and massive police response,” one of the protesters, who gave her name only as Jane, told ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday.

“Police officers running down the street with batons and stuff. It seemed to get out of hand pretty quickly

“Hundreds of them surrounded us. They punched us in the face and grabbed us by the hair and threw us onto the ground. They threw glass bottles at us and they attempted for over 20 to 30 minutes to break through a thin line of police.”

Community Action for Rainbow Rights footage shows the Christian group apparently shouting abuse as the violence unfolds. At one stage, a man is seen throwing a punch, hitting a woman in the back of the head.

“Please get us out of here,” another man can be heard pleading.

In other clips, police can be seen trying to hold back the mob as men run from inside the church towards the protesters.

Police said glass bottles and other projectiles were thrown at officers. One struck a male constable, injuring his hand and he was taken to Canterbury Hospital in a stable condition.

A 38-year-old man was pushed to the ground and assaulted.

Superintendent Sheridan Waldau said police were able to push the protesters into a police vehicle and get them away from the scene.

“This was nothing but a violent confrontation … there was an event occurring which they were there to protest against. This was meant to be a very peaceful protest and unfortunately it has turned into a very violent event,” she said on Wednesday.

A 34-year-old man was arrested and charged with encouraging the commission of crimes. He was given conditional bail to appear before Bankstown Local Court on April 11.

A 41-year-old man was charged with common assault and given an attendance notice to appear before Bankstown Local Court on May 30.

On Tuesday, Mr Latham politicians should be allowed to speak without groups blocking roads and access.

“There was no need for what happened out the front. It diminishes our democracy and we’re better off sorting out our differences at the ballot box,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“This is a really bad development in our system. Who would go into politics when this is what you face now?

“Transgender activists threatening to block the road and access to the church – that was wrong.

“But keep your hands to yourself, don’t be violent.”

On Tuesday night, Mr Latham said police had advised him not to go ahead with his speech.

“To go straight home would have allowed the transgender protesters to cancel my free speech and democratic rights as an election candidate, things that are sacred to me and have been for 35 years in running for elections, local, federal and state,” he tweeted.

“I didn’t see what happened on the front street but I sincerely convey my best wishes to those injured and thank the police officers involved for their work. No one should take the law into their own hands. Violence at political events is wrong.”

Mr Latham stressed he didn’t organise the event but was invited to speak.

-with AAP

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