Violence marred rival anti-Islam and pro-diversity protests in Melbourne but similar rallies around the country were rowdy but largely trouble-free.
A large contingent of police was well prepared to handle any skirmishes, with roughly one officer for every two protesters at the Melbourne rally.
The right-wing Reclaim Australia group held a series of anti-Islam rallies in the capital cities on Sunday, matched with equally noisy protests from left-wing groups.
The largest was in Melbourne, where Reclaim Australia and locals protested about the planned construction of a mosque.
Six people were arrested – one for animal cruelty accused of punching a police horse, two for riotous behaviour and three for weapons offences.
The rally attracted about 1000 people, with 500 on each side, separated by around 500 police, some in riot gear.
Capsicum spray was used as scuffles broke out.
Victoria Police acting Commander Alan Byrnes said three people were injured but the protest was largely peaceful.
“It’s always a bit disappointing to see people turn up with masks,” he said.
“You wonder what their motives are for doing that, but we think all in all it was fairly peaceful.”
About 250 Reclaim Australia supporters abandoned their Brisbane CBD anti-Islam protest as pro-diversity groups chanted “na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” across metal dividing barriers with up to 30 police stationed in-between.
Reclaim speakers were drowned out by about 350 counter-protesters with chants including “Nazi scum off our streets” and “Muslims are welcome, racists are not”.
Reclaim blasted Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh across the barriers in response, but were drowned out again when the counter-rally hit back with a louder rendition of John Farnham’s You’re The Voice.
One man, 64, was charged with public nuisance after he allegedly jumped a barricade.
In Adelaide, a 48-year-old man was charged with affray in the rallies at Adelaide Festival Plaza.
In Sydney, crowds aligned with the Refugee Action Coalition pushed police along Macquarie Street from Martin Place, knocking batons from police belts before officers forced them back.
About 250 people, including parents with children on their shoulders, chanted pro-diversity slogans.
At the other end of Martin Place, Reclaim Australia protesters held two minutes’ silence – broken by calls of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” – for victims of terrorism worldwide.
Soaring heat in Perth did not keep rowdy rival protesters at home, with a strong police presence near parliament, but people on both sides behaved as they tried to drown each other out with Aussie music and chants.
The rival rallies ended peacefully and with no arrests in Canberra Hobart, police say.