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Police fears ease for Melb weekend riots

Fri September 21, 2012 5:52pm

POLICE say it is less likely Melbourne will see angry protests this weekend, though the United States has issued a rare warning for Americans to avoid parts of the city.

A key organiser called off a Melbourne rally planned in response to last weekend's Sydney riots, in which Muslim protesters clashed with police, and police say there is nothing to indicate a retaliatory protest by non-Muslims will go ahead.

Victoria Police Superintendent Peter O'Neill said people could still be planning a protest, but he didn't expect it to be violent.

"Senior command are confident the behaviour seen in Sydney recently will not be seen in Melbourne," he said in a statement on Friday.

"We have a planned response and are prepared for any eventuality."

Fears were raised earlier this week after social media proliferated with hate-filled messages in response to the violence seen in Sydney.

An explicit text message also began circulating, calling on non-Muslim Australians to "come ready for a battle".

But Muslim leaders have continued to discourage community protests and have overwhelmingly condemned Sydney's riots, which began as a protest against the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims made by a Los Angeles-based filmmaker.

The lessening of police concerns in Melbourne comes despite the US Embassy in Australia warning all US citizens that they could become targets.

"Fast-forming anti-American protests in Australia remain possible," an embassy statement cautioned, urging Americans to avoid Sydney's Hyde Park, Martin Place, and Melbourne's CBD over the weekend.

Staff at American consulate offices have also been warned to "avoid attracting attention to themselves as US citizens".

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