A man charged in relation to an attack on trans rights protesters outside a southwest Sydney church has publicly apologised for his involvement in the incident.
According to police, around 250 Christian protesters on Tuesday night surrounded a group of about 15 “peaceful” LGBT activists outside St Michael’s Church in Belfield, where firebrand one Nation NSW leader Mark Latham was due to speak.
The protest began peacefully, with demonstrators expressing their opposition to Mr Latham’s speech.
Tensions quickly escalated and violence erupted between opposing groups. Three people have since been arrested.
Christian Sukkar, 34, was charged with encouraging the commission of crimes, which he believes is in relation to a video he posted on social media prior to the event.
Christian Sukkar was over the clashes. Picture: Facebook
Speaking to the ABC on Thursday, Mr Sukkar apologised for his actions.
He said he did not touch or hit anyone at the protest.
“I’m very apologetic if my message turned very harmful … if they took my comments as an incitement of hate,” he said.
In the video, Mr Sukkar said, “You go there tomorrow and you f**king shake them up, and you drag them by the f**king head, and you remove them from St Michael’s, Belfield. Time to rise, time to let them know where we stand.”
Mr Sukkar told ABC the video, which was only intended for “a couple of boys”, had been blown out of proportion.
“I was just singing the song,” he said. “When you watch these rappers … they don’t literally mean go shoot up, go knock people out, it’s just a song.”
Mr Sukkar has apologised for his actions. Picture: Facebook
It comes after shocking footage captured the moment a woman was punched during the protests.
In the video uploaded to social media, an activist is 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 screams before falling into another person.
Police allege glass bottles and other projectiles were thrown at officers.
Live Christian Lives Matter Mark Latham Counter Protedt https://t.co/CXib16pzrV
â€” Chriscoveries (@Chriscoveries) March 21, 2023
“At this stage we believe it to be water bottles and some rocks that were thrown,” Superintendent Sheridan Waldau said.
“This was nothing but a violent confrontation.”
Police allege a male constable suffered an injury to his hand during the fracas.
He was taken to Canterbury Hospital in a stable condition.
A 38-year-old man was also allegedly pushed to the ground and assaulted, according to police.
Mr Sukkar has not been charged in relation to these incidents.
Days out from the state election, Mr Latham had planned to talk about “religious freedom, parental rights, school education” and keeping LGBT activism out of schools.
The riot squad were called to the scene at St Michael’s Church in Belfield.
Despite the violent scenes, Mr Lathan said on Wednesday the “meeting was conducted successfully”.
“We provided information, heard feedback, and everyone dispersed peacefully, including myself,” he said. “I made a judgment subsequently proven to be 100 per cent accurate that we should have the meeting.”
Footage from the event shows the moment a large group of mostly men confronted the activists.
In the clip, police try to hold back the crowds after swarms of men sprint towards the activists. The men surround and yell at them, with one man screaming, “get the f**k back now”.
Mark Latham had been invited to the church to speak about religious freedoms.
Superintendent Waldau said on Wednesday that following the “violent confrontation”, Mr Latham was asked whether he wanted to proceed with his speech.
“And he decided that he still wished to do that,” she said.
Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) claimed that individuals who participated in the “anti-trans community meeting” later followed fleeing protesters in their cars for blocks.
CARR also accused the One Nation leader of doing “nothing to stop the wave of violent attacks carried out in his name”.
On Wednesday, Mr Latham said the activists “provoked and triggered” the violence despite police reports that the LGBT “protest group appeared to be peaceful”.
“All the projectiles appear to have come from the crowd that were at the event,” Superintendent Waldau said.
Mr Latham said it was “fake news” to suggest the counter-protesters were One Nation supporters.
“I didn’t talk to any of them in advance … they weren’t wearing any One Nation material,” he said.
“If you hadn’t told me there was a riot at the front, I would’ve said this was a peaceful, normal productive meeting. Let’s have no misunderstandings of where this started.”
Trans rights group Community Action for Rainbow Rights organised the protest.
Mr Latham also speculated that the large group that swarmed the activists were likely “churchgoers offended” by having access to their place of worship partially obstructed.
Superintendent Waldau said the small group of protesters had to be “removed from the scene for their own safety by the police, and as far as we know, there will be no incidents involving this group”.
Mr Latham later accused activists and police of trying to “cancel” his “rights to speak as a candidate”, but he “did not surrender”.
Immediately following the violent incident on Tuesday evening, Mr Latham took to social media to “thoroughly condemn” the violence, criticise police and mock the protesters.
He accused police of “[joining] the cancel culture movement” instead of protecting and defending the rights of election candidates to “participate freely in public meetings”.
Mr Latham also referred to the activists as “LGBTQ Alphabet” and accused police of facilitating “Rainbow Fascism”.
On Wednesday, Mr Latham also told the media that he “got a standing ovation” at the end of his speech.
“Which I was very happy with,” he said.
A 41-year-old man was arrested at the protest and charged with common assault.
Mr Sukkar was given conditional bail to appear before Bankstown Local Court on Tuesday, April 11, while the 41-year-old will appear before the same court on Tuesday, May 30.
Following further inquiries, a 42-year-old Moorebank man was also arrested at Campsie Police Station on Wednesday night.
He was charged with assaulting police, hindering or resisting police in the execution of duty and affray.
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The man was granted conditional bail and is due to appear before Bankstown Local Court on Tuesday, April 11.
– with NCA NewsWire
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