Police presence prevents racial fights in Sydney

A heavy police presence at beaches in southern Sydney over the weekend prevented a repeat of racial violence that rocked this city a week ago and headed off potential tragedies, a senior officer said Monday. About 2,000 police took part in a major operation to maintain public order, stopping, checking and sometimes confiscating cars. Police also confiscated several weapons and arrested a group of five men they said were suspected white supremacists who had a large drum of gasoline in their car along with helmets and police radio scanners. "Even though we had those large numbers (of police) we still had people trying to get through these areas and that tells us that they were determined," New South Wales state Assistant Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said. In a weeklong crackdown to stop and prevent racial violence, police have charged 149 people with 264 offenses. Officers also have seized 27 mobile phones and 15 cars during the operation. The buildup in police followed a December 11 riot by thousands of white youths, many of them drunk, to protest the beating a week earlier of two volunteer life guards on Cronulla beach by a group of men identified by witnesses as of Lebanese descent.