United Patriots Front members protest at a rally in Bendigo against a mosque being built. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Olivia Lambert news.com.au
THINGS have gone from ugly to downright scary in the Victorian town of Bendigo, where the mayor had to be shielded from locals who stormed a council meeting overnight in protest over a building.
Mayor Peter Cox was booed and called a “maggot” and was forced from the chamber under police escort.
Anti-mosque protesters stormed the council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall, taunted Mr Cox, who came under fire for approving a mosque in the city.
More than 100 protesters turned up to the meeting and chanted “we will not be silenced” and hurled abuse at Mr Cox before he shut down the meeting and was shielded by police.
But despite the ordeal, Mr Cox told news.com.au he would not budge on his support for the $3 million mosque, approved by council last year.
Bendigo mayor Peter Cox was escorted out of a council meeting by police.Source:News Limited
An appeal against it was lodged to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last month but was rejected.
“I will not change my mind,” Mr Cox said.
“I have values and my convictions are very strong and I believe that council made the right decision and there’s no way we are doubting that.”
Image of the proposed Bendigo mosqueSource:Supplied
Anti-mosque protesters took to the Facebook page, Stop the Mosque in Bendigo, and congratulated each other.
The page has almost 17,000 likes. An administrator uploaded a post following the council meeting last night, reiterating the events.
“Under police escort, mayor Cox became Bendigo’s first mayor turned Asylum Seeker as he sought a safe haven visa of his own,” the post read.
“Mayor Cox has turned the people against the council through failing to listen to the people — which became the cause of his downfall.
“Failure to allow the people to speak turned this council meeting into an utter shambles and mayor Cox has only himself to blame.”
Mr Cox said the council meeting, which was cancelled last night, would be rescheduled and protesters plan to return to “let their voices be heard”.
Police try to quieten anti-mosque protesters at a council meeting in Bendigo. Picture: FacebookSource:Supplied
The mayor said he felt the democratic process had been disrespected by protesters and was shocked by the abuse in the council chambers.
“Last night’s events undermine democracy and we had an agenda of 200 pages dealing with planning and strategies and policies,” he said.
“Because of the noise in the council chamber, we were unable to conduct the meeting.
“I’ve been on council for seven years and I don’t think we’ve witnessed anything like this in the chamber.”
Mr Cox said Bendigo Council would now be forced to look at how meetings would be conducted in the future and said security and maintaining the democratic process were most important.
“We are getting advice today on how we might proceed,” he said.
Mr Cox could not understand why people were so against the mosque after it was approved in June 2014.
“I certainly believe the protesters at last night’s meeting lacked an understanding of the democratic process and how local government operates,” he said.