Australia's Victoria state premier condemns Nazi salute

FILE PHOTO: Victoria's State Premier, Daniel Andrews, speaks to the media regarding Thursday's incident involving a vehicle ploughing into pedestrians in Melbourne, Australia December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Luis Ascui

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The premier of Australia's Victoria state condemned on Sunday Nazi salutes at a protest in the state capital Melbourne as an attempt "to scapegoat minorities" using "evil ideology".

Transgender rights protesters clashed with neo-Nazis in Melbourne on Saturday after a British anti-transgender activist sought to address supporters at the city's parliament building, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

On Sunday, The Australian newspaper posted to Twitter an image of several men dressed in black performing a Nazi salute outside the parliament.

Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews said the anti-transgender activists had "gathered to spread hate" in the city.

"On the steps of our parliament, some of them performed a Nazi salute. They were there to say the trans community don't deserve rights, safety or dignity," Andrews said on Twitter.

"That's what Nazis do. Their evil ideology is to scapegoat minorities - and it's got no place here. And those who stand with them don't, either."

Police told Reuters there were around 300 protestors in total, with around 15 "possibly belonging to right wing groups".

Victoria in December passed laws criminalising the public display of Nazi symbols in what the centre-left Labor state government said was a move to stamp out antisemitism and hate.

In November, a soccer fan who gave a Nazi salute at the Australia Cup final in Sydney, the capital of neighbouring New South Wales state, was banned for life from any games sanctioned by Football Australia (FA).

The behaviour of the fan was described as "absolutely horrendous" by New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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