Teens arrested over racist attack on bus full of Jewish school students

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August 7, 2014 – 7:49AM

Breaking news reporter

Five teenagers have been arrested over a racist attack on a bus full of young Jewish students as they travelled home from school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Victor Dominello, the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, said he was “deeply disturbed” by reports that a group of teenagers had terrorised students as young as five years old as their school bus travelled between Randwick and Bondi Junction on Wednesday afternoon.

Police allege the offenders got on the bus on Darley Road in Randwick about 3.50pm and, as the bus travelled towards Bondi Junction, they racially taunted and made physical threats to the children.

The children’s parents later told police that the offenders, who were possibly drunk at the time, yelled insults such as “kill the Jews” and “free Palestine” during their assault, which one police officer described as an “horrific” incident of bullying and intimidation.

Police said the children were all aged between five and 12 years old and, while they were not physically harmed, they were traumatised by the event. About 30 children from Jewish schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, including Mount Sinai College and Emanuel School, were on the bus at the time.

The alleged offenders got off the bus on Bronte Road at Bondi Junction. A number of children called their parents, who met them at Bondi Junction and called police.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said five teenagers were arrested at 3.30am on Thursday and were questioned by police about the incident. They were then released into the custody of their parents. No charges have been laid and the police investigation is ongoing.

Mr Dominello said public abuse and intimidation on the grounds of race or religion was “deplorable”.

“The people of NSW will never excuse it and those who are alleged to have subjected school children as young as five to this anti-Semitic attack should face the full force of the law,” he said.

“We are lucky to live in one of the most harmonious multicultural societies in the world but we must never be complacent. It is incumbent upon all citizens to expose those whose actions are based on racial hatred and who seek to import overseas conflict onto our streets.”

The attack is believed to have occurred on a State Transit Authority bus that had been hired out privately for the school run. Police are investigating why the bus stopped to pick up the teenage thugs along Darley Road.

The bus was also believed to have CCTV cameras on board, and police will review that footage, which has not yet been publicly released.

Police said in a statement that officers from the Eastern Suburbs local area command were investigating the incident.

“While the event is not believed to be targeted, police have confirmed appropriate action will be taken against the alleged offenders once found, and any type of racial abuse, especially where young children are involved, will not be tolerated,” the statement said.

The teenagers are described as being aged between 15 and 17 years old and “of Caucasian appearance”.

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Racist rant on Sydney bus. May 2013

Woman shouts abuse at a school boy on the M41 route from Burwood to Campsie on May 2, 2013.

The two school boys were standing on the aisle as they had some boxes with fragile equipment on the seat that they wanted to keep from falling over.

The rude woman started yelling abuse at them as she claimed that they were blocking her view.

The driver had to stop the public vehicle several times and walk to the back of the bus in an attempt to quieten down the woman who, encouraged by another female passenger, continued with the abuse the full trip.

Girls shown the door after racist bus rant

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April 15, 2013 – 4:12PM
Megan Levy

Megan Levy

Breaking news reporter

A Sydney bus driver has been praised for his actions after ejecting a group of teenage girls when they began racially abusing another passenger, in the latest case of racism to blight the city’s public transport system.

Other passengers on the bus travelling from the city to Maroubra also leapt to the defence of the woman when the group of five teenagers, who had been drinking, began yelling abuse and targeting the woman on Saturday night.

Passenger Bernd Fichtner said that, unlike other publicised cases of racism on public transport, the driver stopped the bus and ejected the girls, who were estimated to be aged between 14 and 17.

Praised the driver: Bernd Fichtner. Photo: Supplied

The retired teacher said the girls were drinking at the back of the route 397 bus about 6.30pm on Saturday when they began abusing a female passenger because she was Asian.

“It was, quite obviously, a disgusting, frightening and very upsetting experience, but for two reasons both my wife [Pam] and I felt a sense of relief at the end of it all,” he said.

“Firstly, because the driver did a fantastic job in negotiating with these girls, later insisting on their leaving, and the whole time communicating with us, the other passengers.

“Secondly, because unlike in the other similar incidents reported recently, this time the passengers did not let the perpetrators get away with it. They stood up to them, protected and looked after the victim as best they could, and together got rid of this small minority, which otherwise might yet again have triumphed.”

He was so affected by the experience he wrote a letter to Fairfax Media to praise the efforts of those on the bus.

Mr Fichtner, 60, said he and his wife boarded the crowded bus in Taylor Square, and he was pleasantly surprised when two separate young people offered to vacate their seat for him.

But as they drove down Anzac Parade, a commotion began at the back of the bus and two passengers came forward to tell the driver that the teenagers were “terrorising and racially abusing a young Asian lady” and drinking on the bus.

He said the driver immediately stopped and told the teenagers to behave and dispose of their alcohol or get off the bus.

The driver returned to his seat and resumed the journey but, soon after, the girls launched another foul-mouthed rant and began abusing other passengers. Mr Fichtner said they were calling the Asian lady “all kinds of horrible words”.

The driver stopped the bus and told the girls to get off within one minute or he would call the police.

“At this stage, several of the passengers also let these girls know in no uncertain terms that they were no longer welcome on this bus,” Mr Fichtner said.

“After some considerable time the penny dropped and they left the bus, only to hurl further abuse at the driver and the young Asian lady in question from outside the bus.”

He said the girls chased the bus and began banging the windows and throwing rocks at it as it pulled away.

The driver reported the incident to the depot and checked that the other passengers were okay before continuing the journey, Mr Fichtner said.

He said the woman who had been racially abused was in tears and shaking from the experience.

But it could have been worse if the driver and other passengers had not stood up for her, he said.

“[Saturday’s] trip to Maroubra ended relatively harmlessly because the group of people on the bus acted in solidarity and were admirably led by the driver, who did much more than his professional duty and deserves the highest commendation,” Mr Fichtner said.

The incident is the latest in a string of racist verbal attacks on public transport. On Easter Saturday, a man abused an Asian couple on the 470 bus from Circular Quay to Lilyfield, and a woman who tried to intervene said most passengers ignored what was happening.

In March, a video filmed on a Perth bus showed a woman verbally abusing another woman, who she refers to as Chinese, for speaking in another language.

In February, ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez tweeted about being called a “black c—” who should “go back to his country” by a female passenger on a Sydney bus. He was told by the bus driver to move seats but refused to.

In November last year, footage of a racist attack on a French woman on a Melbourne bus went viral after she was called a dog by male passengers, threatened with having her breasts cut off and told to “speak English or die”.

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When a group of young teenage girls began racially abusing Kate* on a public bus in Sydney, she decided she had to stand up for herself.

If it had been teenage boys, Kate* says, she probably would have sat back and copped the abuse, however unjust. But what harm could a 13-year-old girl do?

I couldn’t believe that, at such a young age, they were capable of doing this, stealing other people’s property and physically attacking me.

Now the 30-year-old has changed her mind, after she was kicked forcefully in the stomach and had her purse taken during a horror ride home to Maroubra on a crowded route 397 bus on Saturday evening.

Now she can understand why people don’t react or intervene in similar situations.

“They could have had some weapon with them. I have a very different view of a young teenage girls now,” she said.

“When I originally stood up for myself I thought, ‘They’re just young girls’, you know? Now I’ve totally changed my view. They are capable of everything.”

Kate, who did not want to be identified, was sitting at the back of the bus when the group of about five girls, thought to be aged between 13 and 17, began racially abusing her about 6.30pm on Saturday, saying: “Asian c—, go back to your own country”.

Kate, who moved to Australia from China eight years ago and is an Australian citizen, said she turned around to the girls, who were drinking alcohol, and reacted to their verbal abuse.

“I said, ‘Young lady you need to behave yourself’,” Kate said.

“I turned back to try to get the driver’s attention and they took my wallet. Then I started yelling: ‘They stole my wallet, somebody call the police.”‘

Kate saw her wallet beneath the seat of one of the girls. She crouched down and retrieved it, but as she got up one of the girls kicked her forcefully in the stomach twice.

“At that point, I was beyond stunned. I couldn’t believe that, at such a young age, they were capable of doing this, stealing other people’s property and physically attacking me,” Kate said.

“I still couldn’t punch back, I simply couldn’t do it.”

Unlike in some other recent racist attacks on public transport, the bus driver and other passengers then stepped in.

On Monday, the driver was praised for ejecting the girls, while other passengers on the bus lent verbal support to the driver’s actions.

The girls got off, only to chase the bus and throw rocks at it. They spat in the face of one other passenger who was helping Kate in the wake of the attack.

Kate, who got her purse back, said the attack was captured on CCTV, and she had reported the incident to police. She said the bus driver and the police knew who the girls were.

But given the girls’ age, they probably would not face any serious consequences for their actions.

“It’s not right, it’s not tolerable. They enjoy it, because they know they can get away with it,” she said.

“I feel pity for them, because they’re at such a young age and life seems already ruined, and I feel like it’s society’s failure.”

*Not her real name.

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Asian tourists abused on public transport

A man was captured on film abusing a middle-aged couple of Asian appearance on a Sydney bus, in another instance of racial abuse aboard public transport.

Another instance of racist abuse has reportedly been recorded on a Sydney bus.

A Caucasian man was captured on film abusing a middle-aged couple of Asian appearance, swearing at them and ranting about the Japanese bombing of Australia during World War II.

At one point the Asian man began apologising but it did not placate his abuser, who continued yelling, Fairfax Media reported.

The incident occured on the 470 bus from Circular Quay to Lilyfield in Sydney on Sunday evening.

A 30-year-old office worker of Chinese descent, Heidi, said she and another passenger told the man to get off the bus but were ignored. She then began filming the incident.

Heidi, who asked the Herald that her surname not be recorded, said no other passengers said anything.

“We didn’t receive any support from the other passengers,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Some told us to sit back down and be quiet and everyone just looked really blase.

No one did anything about it. In fact, two girls sitting next to me thought it was funny and burst into laughter.”

This is the latest in a string of videos to be posted, showing racial abuse on public transport.

Last year an attack on a French woman who was singing in French made headlines.

Two people abused the woman and made threats of violence against her.

Earlier this year, ABC Newsreader Jeremy Fernandez was racially abused on a Sydney bus in the presence of his daughter.

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And there’s more

‘What if that happened to my mother?’: Man who stood up to bus racism told to accept abuse

April 2, 2013 – 1:52PM
Rachel Olding

Rachel Olding

Reporter

Racist bus rant backlash

A second witness to a racist attack on a Sydney bus has come forward to say he was also targeted in the anti-Asian rant, and told by fellow passengers not to challenge his abuser.

Meanwhile the woman who used social media to publicise the attack has become the victim of further abuse online.

Yong Wang, a Chinese-Australian man, said he stood up on the 470 bus to Lilyfield on Easter Saturday to defend a middle-aged man and woman of Korean appearance who were being racially abused by a Caucasian man.

Racist rant … a screengrab of the video posted on YouTube.

Yet the man then turned on Mr Wang.

“He started to accuse the Korean lady in the video [for] not being able to speak English,” he said. “The lady’s son started to apologise and explain she is a tourist. Then he got worse.”

Another woman, who came forward yesterday and only wanted to be known as Heidi, backed Mr Wang’s intervention but said they didn’t receive any support from the other passengers, who either looked away, told them to sit down or laughed.

Mr Wang said people had told him not to argue with the man as he appeared drunk.

“I felt that I had to stand up when he called the lady disgusting because I just thought ‘what if that happened to my mother when she was visiting Australia?’,” Mr Wang said.

In the latter part of the rant, which Heidi caught on film, the Caucasian man yells at the Asian tourists about the Japanese bombing of Australia during World War II and calls them “f—ing bastards”.

Before the camera started rolling, the man yelled racist taunts such as, “Do you f—ing speak English?”, “Japanese c—s” and “why did you come to Australia?”, predominantly at the woman, said Heidi, a 30-year-old office worker of Chinese descent.

Since posting the video on YouTube and urging people to share it if it “upsets you”, Heidi has been subject to abuse and the YouTube page has been bombarded with racist, sexist and abusive comments.

Most of the 350 comments on the video attack the victims of the rant or those who stood up for them.

City Central police are contacting witnesses to ask if they would like to make a formal statement which would initiate an investigation into the incident.

A State Transit spokesman said CCTV footage and assistance would be provided to police if required.

Bus drivers can try to intervene to ask a passenger to leave a bus if an incident of anti-social behaviour occurs but they have no power to force a passenger off.

They can contact a supervisor via radio and organise for police to meet the bus, a spokesman said.

A leading racism researcher, Kevin Dunn, said the majority of bystanders will do nothing to intervene in a racist attack, usually because they don’t know what they should do.

He said witnesses could say something to the offender, film the incident or report it to an authority.

“In circumstances where people do speak up, the affirming effect on the victim can almost be so positive that it cancels out the effects of the racism,” he said.

The incident is the latest in a string of racist rants on public transport to be filmed or shared on social media.

In February, ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez tweeted about being called a “black c—” who should “go back to his country” by a female passenger on a Sydney bus. He was told by the bus driver to move seats but refused to.

In November last year, footage of a racist attack on a French woman on a Melbourne bus went viral after she was called a dog by male passengers, threatened with having her breasts cut off and told to “speak English or die”.

‘Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken’: ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez alleges racial abuse on Sydney bus

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February 8, 2013 – 11:12AM

Megan Levy
Breaking news reporter

Megan Levy

Racially abused … Jeremy Fernandez.

ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez says he has been racially abused on a Sydney bus in front of his young daughter.

Fernandez tweeted on Friday morning that a female bus passenger had called him a “black c**t” and told him to “go back to my country”.

But, in what he described as his own Rosa Parks moment, Fernandez refused to move his position on the bus and, as a result, copped 15 minutes of racial abuse from the woman, who was accompanied by her primary school-aged children.

“Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken,” he tweeted.

“Coppef [sic] 15 mins of racial abuse. Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving) [sic],” he wrote.

“Worst thing is- i had my 2yo daughter with me. She had her primary school aged kids with her. All heard every word of her racist rant.

“It’s a sad thing when a coloured man in 2013 has to show his kid how to hold their nerve in the face of racist taunts.”

Fernandez has been contacted for comment.

Late last year, a French woman was targeted in a racist attack on a Melbourne bus in which she was called a c—, a dog and threatened with having her breasts cut off after she sang a song in her native tongue.

Another passenger captured footage of that incident, which showed passengers verbally abusing French tourist Fanny Desaintjores, 22, and her friends on board a bus in the city’s southern suburbs.

Ms Desaintjores said she and about nine friends were on the bus, having spent the day at the beach for a barbecue, and were singing “French popular joyful songs, not coarse at all”.

Footage of the racist taunts was viewed more than a million times on YouTube and been reported around the world.

Police have spoken to three people over that attack, and investigations are continuing.

jeremyfernandezfromsmh

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UPDATE

The Drum

My Rosa Parks moment in Sydney 2013

Updated 2 hours 9 minutes ago

ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez has long experienced racism since moving to Australia as a teenager, but a 15-minute racist tirade he experienced in front of his young daughter left him particularly shaken. He asks, what makes people so ready to vent their hate in 2013?

Photo: I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” (Giulio Saggin, file photo: ABC News)

Earlier today I had what I like to think of as my own Rosa Parks moment on a Sydney bus travelling through the inner-west from Marrickville to Stanmore.

It culminated in a woman, in the presence of her two school-aged kids, calling me a “black c***”. She told me to go back to my “own country”, and threatened to drag me off the bus as she raised her fist to my face.

The entire encounter lasted about 15 minutes, and is one of the most confronting instances of abuse I have experienced recently.

I am absolutely sure this episode isn’t unique or even rare. I cop racist abuse from time to time – most recently from a checkout operator at Woolworths who had been moaning her disapproval about the influx of asylum seekers to our shores. When my turn came to go through the checkout, she scanned and piled my groceries on a tiny bit of the counter top until everything fell on the floor. As I picked my groceries up from the floor she kept going, sending more groceries off the edge of the tiny bench.

You never know when you’ll be hit next, and having your mug on TV doesn’t offer much of a shield.

However, this episode on the bus shook me particularly strongly because I had my two-year-old daughter with me. In fact, it was in her defence that the confrontation started.

The woman’s daughter had been flicking and pinching my daughter from behind. It was harmless child’s play, but it made my daughter uncomfortable and confused. So I put my arm around her as protection. The little girl kept clipping my arm. I turned and told her softly, “That was my arm.”

The girl’s mother asked what was going on, and I told her what had happened. She denied her daughter had even touched me.

What happened next took me by surprise.

She began hurling abuse and accused me of reaching behind our seats and touching her daughter. Of course, I had not done anything of the sort. This accusation hit me pretty hard.

At this point, I considered moving to another spot on the bus. However, the woman then launched into a racist rant that continued for the longest 15 minutes of my life. I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” She would stay put. So I did, especially since it is 2013.

As the woman’s rant continued, I did argue back, telling her she was a piece of work for even talking like this in front of children. She raised a fist to my face, and threatened to drag me off the bus if I didn’t move.

A Caucasian gentleman sitting next to the woman told her to stop. She told him off, before continuing her rant at me. No one else said anything, and for that I have no resentment. Any further outside involvement risked escalating the situation.

I used my phone to record the tail end of the woman’s rant, while she got her phone out to take photographs of me. She muttered threats, saying that she knew where I lived and would round up a few men to show me a lesson.

After she got off the bus to drop her children off at school, a couple of people offered me their names and contact details as witnesses.

The sting was yet to come. As I alighted from the bus, I told the driver that as someone who had carriage of passengers on his vehicle, it would have been nice if he had pulled this woman into line.

He said, “It’s your fault, mate. You could have moved.” I was keen to press the point that I didn’t move from my seat on principle because I had every right to be on that bus in that seat. It surprised me that as a European migrant himself, he failed to recognise that.

Discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, economics, disability, sexual preference, and other differences is an unfortunate part of our modern society. People across the country put up with all types of abuse and move on. For me, this incident wasn’t about race. It was about hate.

If I were gay, disabled, elderly, or spoke poor English, this woman would have attacked that, perceiving it to be the most shameful aspect of me.

Racism has been a part of my life since I was a young child growing up in Malaysia, when the fairer-skinned kids would call me the ‘oily man’ because I looked to them like I’d been dipped in a barrel of oil.

I moved to Australia as a 13-year old with a ‘weird accent’, and learned to embrace being a novelty. One of my best friends at school, on learning I wanted to be a journalist one day, advised me not to worry about never getting a job: “There’s always SBS,” he said.

I cut my teeth in journalism when Pauline Hanson was becoming popular. I attended her first speech in Perth, during which all of my belongings apart from a pen and paper were confiscated, in case I used them as missiles. It saddened me equally to see the people who turned out to hear Ms Hanson speak being pelted with fruit and vegetables.

Ever since my family migrated to Australia, I have been asked what I think about racism. I rarely talk about it publicly because there is nothing new to say. Why are we still having conversations about immigration, embracing difference, and acceptance in 2013? And what makes people so ready to vent their hate?

I have to admit that I had a bit of a cry after dropping my daughter off at daycare. It saddened me to realise that I’ll have to teach her how to be stoic and stand up for herself in the face of an abusive person. Perhaps naively, I hadn’t thought that far ahead, especially because Sydney is said to be one of the most open and inclusive cities in the world.

I have been heartened and deeply humbled by the messages of support I’ve received today, many from strangers on social media outlets.

I bounce back pretty easily. But I am now wondering about where and how we can change things so our kids don’t have to explain hate to their kids.

Jeremy Fernandez is a journalist and newsreader for ABC News. View his full profile here.

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