The leader of a Christian group whose members clashed with LGBTIQA+ protesters last week was heard telling his members they were “not here to cause any trouble” moments before a violent brawl broke out.
A recently deleted video filmed by a member of religious group Christian Lives Matter shows dozens of its members listening to founder Charlie Bakhos explain why they were near the protest site.
The large group were attending a prayer vigil organised by Mr Bakhos outside Sydney’s St Michael’s Belfield church on Tuesday night which coincided with a talk scheduled to be given by One Nation Leader Mark Latham inside the venue.
Founder Charlie Bokhas was leading a prayer before members dispersed. Picture: Twitter / @WhiteRoseSocAU
Mr Latham was due to speak about religious freedom and parental rights to about 500 people, which prompted “peaceful” LGBTIQA+ activists from the Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) group to hold a protest ahead of the talk.
But a violent clash quickly erupted when members of the Christian group interfered with the protesters, injuring a police officer and contributing to two arrests.
The brutal scenes were caught on camera, with one activist heard calling for police to “please get us out of here” shortly before a woman was forcefully punched in the back of the head by a man.
The woman was then heard screaming before tumbling into another person, while glass bottles and other projectiles were thrown at officers, NSW Police told NCA Newswire.
But a video of the minutes leading up to the violence has since resurfaced showing what really let up to the violent brawl.
In the footage posted to Twitter, Mr Bakhos is heard telling his members they’re here to pray amid the absence of protesters.
“We’ve come here, the cops are here, the protesters aren’t even here. We’re going to pray, we’re going to stand here united, we’re not going to cause any trouble,” he said.
“Let’s pray for Australia, let’s pray for unity, let’s pray to protect all our churches and most of all pray to protect our children.”
His words were met with a chorus of “Amens” from several adults and children who were present at the venue.
Dozens gathered to pray the rosary. Picture: Twitter / @WhiteRoseSocAU
After making some further announcements, the group proceeded to pray the rosary with Mr Bakhos heard telling his supporters to pray for a number of people including those with cancer, struggling with addiction and everyone’s families.
“Let’s pray for those people who are away from God … and the people who are attacking us, they can have their conversion and come back to our Lord,” he said.
A phone call interrupted his prayers before he continued praising those who attended for their “unity” and for “praying together as Christians”.
“Let’s show Australia, let’s show Sydney, that we stand united, we’re peaceful and we’re going to be praying for everybody,” he said.
Prior to commencing the rosary, he finished his sentiments by telling the group’s members to be cooperative with police.
But Mr Bakhos was quickly interrupted when a small group of queer activists were seen nearby, prompting some of his members to walk away from the church.
In response, the woman filming the video could be heard yelling “don’t worry about what’s happening outside” before sighing in disappointment as several people rushed away.
The furore caused dozens of supporters to shift their gaze from Mr Bakhos to the commotion happening outside the venue while the remaining supporters broke out into prayer, reciting the words to “The Our Father”.
Mr Bakhos continued to lead the prayers while another leader stormed out to gather those who had left the venue.
It’s understood the confronting brawl between protesters and members of the Christian group broke out as a result.
Despite the uproar, Mr Latham proceeded with his talks and called the event a “success”.
“If you hadn’t told me there was a riot at the front I would’ve said this was a peaceful, normal productive meeting,” he said.
He added: “Let’s have no misunderstandings of where this started,” alluding that the fight likely broke out because “churchgoers (were) offended” access to their place of worship was partially obstructed.
Mr Bakhos told The Daily Telegraph his group “doesn’t condone violence” and the outburst wasn’t something they had “organised”.
“A big group of us did pray, but at the end of the day you can’t control everyone else’s reactions,” he said.
“(Tuesday’s events) showed that this is much bigger than Christian Lives Matter. More than 80 per cent of people I’ve never seen and some people came to pray and others came to protect the church.
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“There were Muslims, nonbelievers and Christians who came together.”
Christian Lives Matter boasts over 26,000 members in its Facebook group and was established in April 2017 in the lead up to marriage equality postal vote.