Bottle shop owner blames turf battle, not race

herald sun via fortress australia oct 2007

A NOBLE Park businessman set upon by a mob of youths says black and white gangs regularly face off on his doorstep.

Geoff Heffernan, who manages a bottle shop opposite the train station, has witnessed weekly explosions of violence outside his shop for the best part of a year.

One day, about six months ago, a group of eight Caucasian youths and eight Sudanese and Pacific Islanders brawled, armed, in the street.

"The Sudanese had a plank of wood and the white guys had a machete, and this was in the middle of the day," he said.

Up to 30 youths would flood his shop at a time, stealing alcohol and becoming violent if he decided they were too intoxicated to be served.

"I've had bottles thrown at me and been punched at," Mr Heffernan said. "We've had employees leave because of it."

On July 28, he was set upon by a drunken man in his shop after refusing his mates service.

Security footage shows the man lunging at him with his bare hands, throwing wild punches at his head.

Police used capsicum spray to subdue the attacker.

Mr Heffernan believes the violence stems from different groups trying to claim public space as their own.

"It's not a race problem, but there is racial tension in the community," he said.

"It's a turf war. You don't see Sudanese men over 25 getting involved in this stuff.

"I don't like the way the race card is being played politically," he said.

He said the problems had persisted for about 18 months, but had started to ease in the past six months.

Liep Gony, the 19-year-old Sudanese refugee who died after a bashing near Noble Park station last week, had visited his store. A heightened police presence since the death had quelled the violence.