Protests over the Gaza conflict turned heated in Caulfield on Friday night, resulting in clashes that prompted police to use pepper spray. The unrest unfolded near the Burgertory store, owned by a Palestinian Australian, which had become a focal point of community tensions following a blaze on Friday, believed by police to be unrelated to politics.

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The clashes occurred on Hawthorn Road, where a pro-Palestinian group gathered on one side and a pro-Israel crowd on the other, engaging in verbal confrontations. The rally, organized by Free Palestine Melbourne, took place in the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community, surprising onlookers.

Around 9 pm, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters breached a police line, prompting officers to use pepper spray against young men rushing toward the pro-Israel crowd. By 9:30 pm, the Palestinian group had dispersed, with only a few counter-demonstrators remaining.

The confrontations began around 7 pm near Princes Park, just south of the burger store, with over 100 people chanting while a significant police presence monitored the situation. The potential for physical altercations prompted police intervention as the groups approached each other, separated by the road.

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Verbal exchanges included taunts such as “You dogs” from some Palestinian protesters and responses like “Shame on you” and “go back home” from those waving Israeli flags. Cars flying Palestinian flags drove by honking their horns, while a group waving Israeli flags chanted outside the burnt-out shop. The tense situation saw occasional shouting matches and honks of support from passing drivers.