BENDIGO residents are encouraged to refrain from engaging with far-right protesters at a planned anti-Islamic rally in the city centre next week.
Several Facebook groups have promoted counter-rallies and community events in Bendigo in opposition to the anti-Islam activists.
Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan advised residents who do not support the protest to keep their distance.
“We don’t want it to be a situation where there are groups coming together and there is a potential for unrest,” she said.
She said attending the rally in opposition would only give the protesters’ bigoted views more oxygen.
“My view is it’s best not to draw attention to this, given the fact it’s going to be attended by people who are going to be bussed in from out of town,” she said.
Haven; Home, Safe chief executive office Ken Marchingo said there was little need for Bendigo residents to go to the protest.
“Apart from the morbid curiosity of a seeing what this dreary group of screamers looks like, I think people have got better things to do,” he said.
“I think people have got better things to do; there’s laundry to do, ironing to do, car-washing to do, as well as all the fabulous things to do in Bendigo on the weekend. I think people will just get on with their lives,” he said.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said she understood why people felt compelled to show their opposition to the out-of-town demonstrators.
“People are very hurt by what is happening and for some people, this is a very emotional issue. People are embarrassed and sad that that such a a small minority can give Bendigo a bad name,” she said.
Ms Chesters asked for calm from people on all sides of the debate.
“I call on the people who are coming here to respect people and respect the people of Bendigo,” she said.
“We don’t want to see violence. We don’t want to see unrest. While we respect people’s right to protest, there is a line between protest and causing unrest.”
Bendigo police Senior Sergeant John Dalton said police will monitor the rally. He said all Victorians had the right to feel safe within their communities. “It is critical that all Victorians are accepting of cultural diversity and respect the right for individuals to practice their faith, pursuing their values, beliefs and interests,” he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.