Protesters have been pepper sprayed and taken away in handcuffs after a pro-Palestine demonstration descended into violence outside a popular burger joint that burnt down overnight.
Protestors from both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate were seen at Princes Park near the Burgertory restaurant in Caulfield, Melbourne‘s south-east, at 7pm on Friday.
Shocking footage showed a huge scuffle kick off between the two groups, with many seen throwing punches as police tried to intervene.
Burgetory’s CEO Hash Tayeh, 32, had asked people not to protest after his restaurant went up in flames.
Victorian Police are investigating the circumstances behind the blaze which they are treating as ‘suspicious’ but do not believe was politically motivated.
Mr Tayeh, who transformed his business into Australia’s largest independently-owned burger chain after founding it in 2018, had sparked controversy for leading cries of ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ at a Melbourne rally a fortnight ago.
A pro-Palestine rally descended into chaos in Caulfield in Melbourne on Friday night
Police had to split opposing sides to either side of the street to avoid violence in the Palestine-Israel protest on Friday night
During Friday night’s protest, pro-Palestine supporters and pro-Israel crowds stood on opposite sides of Hawthorn Road hurling abuse at each other
Israel supporters lined one side of the street
Palestinian supporters lined the opposite side
Police tried to seperate the opposing groups but were unable to do so without employing pepper spray
A Victoria Police spokesperson said that several protestors were arrested to ‘keep the peace’
At 7:30pm a synagogue was forced to evacuate when protestors spilled onto a park across the street from it
Several young men tried to charge through the police line
Police were able to stop the groups from colliding for the most part
A former MP slammed the police force’s response to the demonstration
Protestors formed outside the recently burnt out Burgertory restaurant in Caulfield
This was the second night of protests in the suburb after a demonstration on Thursday evening
During Friday night’s protest, pro-Palestine supporters and pro-Israel crowds stood on opposite sides of Hawthorn Road hurling abuse at each other.
Both sides were seen draped in Israeli and Palestinian flags, while also shouting from megaphones.
Police had created a line with officers and closed the road in a bid to quell the chaos.
Young male Palestine supporters attempted to run through the police line several times during the protest prompting police to fire pepper spray.
Jewish attendees were evacuated out of a nearby synagogue when the pro-Palestinian group spilled into the park across the road.
Members of the Jewish community had previously been warned to stay away from the burnt-out Burgertory.
Victoria Police has been contacted for comment.
Earlier on Friday tensions flared outside the restaurant, when a group believed to be pro-Palestine began arguing with others.
Protesters are seen in Caulfield on Friday evening
Hawthorn Road was closed for hours as the protest descended into chaos
Victoria Police detained several people after the scuffle to ‘keep the peace’.
‘It’s believed a verbal altercation took place between around 15 people on Glen Huntly Road just after 2.30pm,’ a spokesperson said.
‘A number of people were detained briefly in an effort to keep the peace. One female was arrested briefly for failing to provide identification.
‘No one was injured during the incident.’
Ten fire crews battled to extinguish the blaze at the Burgertory restaurant after it burst into flames just after 4am on Friday.
Mr Tayeh labelled the fire an ‘arson attack’ and said it would not ‘waver my calling for peace and will not silence me’.
‘We are working closely with authorities to investigate this alarming incident, and we are determined to assist in every possible way,’ he said.
‘As an Australian with Palestinian heritage and the CEO of Burgertory, and as someone who cherishes life in our multicultural Australian society, I am deeply troubled by the spread of rumours suggesting that we harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.
‘I cannot stress enough that this could not be further from the truth. My participation in Pro-Palestinian rallies was driven by a desire for peace and a ceasefire, not violence or division. I have lost 38 relatives in Palestine and I want the violence to stop.’
Mr Tayeh, 32, was filmed at a pro-Palestine protest in Melbourne on 29 October holding a loudspeaker and leading chants of ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
Some interpret the rallying cry as anti-Semitic, as it effectively calls for the abolishment of Israel by extending the Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean sea.
He vehemently rejected the allegation he held anti-Semitic views and claimed he was a ‘voice for peace’.