Australian Associated Press
Melbourne’s South Sudanese community is fed up with being “demonised” by “racist” political commentary and media coverage over 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 other councillors from other areas.
“No one condones violence and no one condones the actions of some of these young people.”
The joint call for calm follows escalating political commentary and media coverage about “African gangs” in the lead up to the November 24 state election.
Dozens of youths from Sudanese backgrounds last week gathered at Taylors Hill for a fight sparked by a “teenage relationship issue”. Some threw projectiles at a police car before the riot squad was called.
In July, 19-year-old Sudanese-Australian woman Laa Chol was fatally stabbed at a party in a short-term stay apartment in Melbourne’s CBD.
The incident was linked by some commentators to African “gang” violence but police said there was no connection and the young woman’s family hit out at what they said was the politicisation of her death.
The commentary is an ongoing demonisation of Mr Mayek’s community, he said.
“The community feels strongly put in harms way because of all this media frenzy … people are being hassled in the supermarket and public spaces,” he told AAP at Monday’s press conference.
Media “pounced” on the Taylors Hill event “and it was reported in such a negative way”, Mr Mayek added.
“Although, there was no damage done or anybody hurt apart from … the police property being damaged”.
Asked by reporters whether there was an “African gangs” crisis in Melbourne, the community leader said “we do not accept that proposition”.
“We accept there are problems. What we are saying is let’s talk about it in a more balanced way, let’s talk about these problems.”
The state government steered clear of the issue on Monday, with cabinet minister Jacinta Allan saying only that it was good to see community leaders “taking a stand against racism and hatred,” adding there were “challenges in this area”.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy hit out at those he said were pretending gang crime wasn’t a problem.
“It’s fine for mayors in inner-city suburbs to preach to the rest of the world about what they feel is right and wrong, but how about we get together and solve some of these crimes,” he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull previously insisted Melbourne had a Sudanese gang crime issue, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton sparked derision in January when he claimed people were scared to go out to restaurants because of it.
First Published by ntnews.com.au