Anti-fascism in Melbourne: 1990s

Introduction

In Melbourne, during the early- to mid-1990s, a number of campaigns in opposition to the establishment of a fascist presence in the city were conducted, largely in response to attempts by one, now-defunct group called National Action (NA). NA was formed in 1982, under the leadership of a man of Lebanese descent named James — later Doctor — Saleam. Following his imprisonment in May 1991 for organising a shotgun assault upon the home of Eddie Funde (then the ANC representative to Australasia) on January 27, 1989 — “[NA] members Jason Frost and Michael White… both implicated Saleam, telling the court he had given them a balaclava, gloves, a shotgun and eight dollars each for a drink to steady their nerves” — leadership of the group was assumed by a neo-Nazi from Adelaide called Michael (De) Brander, the son of Spanish fascist migrants.

    “Saleam was born [on September 18, 1955] in Maryborough, Queensland, of Lebanese migrant parents. He joined the Nazi Party (the National Socialist Party of Australia) in 1970. Two years later, aged 17, he was found guilty of fire-bombing a Maoist bookshop [East Wind] in Brisbane and put on a four-year good behaviour bond. He moved to Sydney and enrolled at university where he helped form National Resistance in 1977. That became National Alliance in 1978, attracting some old Nazis.

    In 1981, National Alliance merged with the Immigration Control Association to form the Progressive Nationalist Party. After that collapsed, Saleam and others formed [NA] in 1982 [and which was officially launched on Anzac Day, April 25]. In August 1984, Saleam was found guilty of insurance fraud; an appeal is pending [1989]. He was given a good behaviour bond for three years in 1985 as well as a $5,000 bond for possession of a prohibited article, namely a large nail-studded club.” ~ Lyndall Crisp, ‘Harvest of Hate’, The Bulletin, April 4, 1989

Northcote

One of the first public expressions of opposition to NA took place in Northcote in November 1993. Following a number of racist and homophobic assaults in the area, on November 20 a rally marching under the banner ‘Action Against Fascism’ took place. The demonstrators, who numbered about 130, met at the corner of Arthurton Road and High Street in order to scrub out racist graffiti in the area. A group of 6 boneheads heckled the crowd, but were then forced to flee when a segment decided to speak more directly with the boneheads regarding their political and racial anxieties. After a long chase, and a number of full and frank discussions, police eventually managed to secure their escape through Northcote Plaza (Jim Simmonds, ‘[Boneheads] row with marchers’, Herald Sun, November 22, 1993; ‘Protesters clash with neo-Nazis’, Northcote Leader, November 24, 1993).

Brunswick

Several months later, on March 5, 1994 — Brunswick Community Day — NA, with the support of AAFI, decided to hold a public rally at Brunswick Town Hall. NA spokesperson John Ruger claimed that the rally was intended to “oppose all efforts (including race-hate laws) to limit the rights of Australian nationalists” (Scott Whiffin, ‘High noon looms in Nazi showdown’, Brunswick Sentinel, February 7, 1994). Interestingly, Senior Sargeant Colin Barnes stated that the ISO was to blame for “bringing the National Front [sic] into Brunswick”; a reference to the previous action in November (which he also erroneously describes as having taken place in December; Rosemary West, ‘Forget the violence: family day plea to rivals’, The Age, March 5, 1994).

In reality, the background to the rally was a number of incidents of verbal abuse by boneheads of local community members (Muslim schoolgirls, Turkish women and others, including public transport workers); violent assaults (upon a Vietnamese man, a Somali man, a group of teenaged Asian schoolgirls and others, including a group assault upon a Maori man outside of a Brunswick pub); and a campaign of racist graffiti and vandalism (largely directed at local churches, businesses and the cars and residences of ‘known’ or suspected anti-racist and anti-fascist activists).

As it happens, on the day of the NA rally — which managed to attract just 30 or so boneheads, and which was again addressed, unsuccessfully, by Brander — almost 1,000 rallied in opposition. After coming under a barrage of rotten eggs and horse dung (one egg landed, quite spectacularly, in Brander’s mouth, footage of which featured as Goal of the Week on that week’s edition of The Footy Show), the neo-Nazis were soon forced to flee the site, under police escort, to a specially-commandeered city-bound train. And while Brunswick Mayor Glenyys Romanes expressed a desire for the media “to play it all down”, Peter Murray replied “…that’s all very well if you’re a white Anglo councillor, but it’s not very good for the Somali woman who, a few weeks back, had her arm broken by these thugs in Northcote” (Fran Cusworth, ‘Anti-Nazi rally voices its anger’, Brunswick Sentinel, March 21, 1994).

Note that during this period, the Sarah Sands Hotel on Sydney Road, Brunswick, acted as a venue for the neo-Nazis; a role which is now being fulfilled — with the support of a small number of local punks (notably Bulldog Spirit and Charter 77) — by the Birmingham Hotel in Fitzroy.

    Adelaide : In March 1994, NA also engaged in an infamous anti-Asian pogrom in Rundle Street Mall, when approximately 20 or so NA members, boneheads and their allies, shouting Nazi slogans and dressed in Nazi paraphernalia, assaulted 15 people. The injured were treated for broken bones, severe bruising and facial injuries, and one (Asian) man “was kicked more than 30 times about the head and body” (‘Neo-Nazi street rampage’, Herald Sun, March 28, 1994). Brander subsequently denied NA involvement, defended the racist mob’s actions, and was quoted as stating that “I don’t see neo-Nazis as being detrimental to our group” (Shane Maguire, ‘SA Gangs At Flashpoint’, Sunday Mail, April 3, 1994). A subsequent rally held on the steps of the Prospect Town Hall was addressed by Brander, accompanied by about 50 or so NA members and sympathisers, and Nazi marching songs. A crowd of several hundred, including a number of WWII veterans, assembled in opposition to the neo-Nazi rally.

Fawkner

The next few years were slightly quieter for NA in Melbourne, although both Barricade (which opened in February 1995) and a number of other groups and individuals were targeted for reprisals. This included an assault by Brander against a counter-protester at another NA rally outside Parliament House on March 18, 1995. (Brander was convicted in September.) Aside from internal disputes, their main stumbling-block was to be the emergence of The Wicked Witch of Ipswich, Pauline Hanson, who continues to dance her way around Federal and State politics, TV, and women’s magazines.

In January 1997, NA tried to establish a firmer presence in Melbourne by opening a bunker in Tyson Street, Fawkner. Several months later, on March 15, a demonstration protesting its appearance was organised by local Trotskyists (among others), many of whom had previously been involved in the protests in Brunswick.

As NA described it, the protest consisted of “communists, homosexuals and fringe malcontents”. NA, on the other hand, forewarned and forearmed (as Saleam might say), assembled on the roof of the bunker dressed in clown suits and — to the sound of circus music — threw lollies to (and shit on) the malcontents gathered below. The neo-Nazis also shared the rooftop with members of the Force Response Unit (FRU), armed with video cameras and a pathological aversion to the troublemakers below.

On the ground, police were also very much present: one antifa was arrested for allegedly assaulting a cameraperson who had refused his request not to be filmed. This arrest triggered a minor fracas in which another two antifa were arrested while attempting to prevent the police van in which the first had been placed from leaving the area. Having succeeded, police offered to release the first person apprehended if protesters agreed to piss off to a local park. The self-styled leadership agreed to this proposal, but — after having been pressured to by others present — the proposition was put to a vote. The overwhelming majority of protesters voted to remain until the antifa was released — and he was immediately thereafter. (To the best of my knowledge, the other two antifa arrested by police subsequently went to court and received fines for their misbehaviour).

The coalition Campaign Against the Nazis (CAN), which drew the support, among others, of local Labor MPs — including the ALP member for Wills, Kelvin Thompson, as well as Carlo Carli, ALP member for Coburg, Tony Sheehan, ALP member for Northcote and Doug Walpole, MLC for Melbourne West — organised further protests on April 19, May 31, July 12 and August 9, 1997; each one smaller than the last.

das Ende der Geschichte?

Tired of the protests, subjected to attacks from other, rival neo-Nazi groups, and unable to pay their rent, NA finally gave up and took their bat and ball home to Adelaide in April 1998; barely 15 months after they began. As for Brander, he enrolled at LaTrobe University and, having completed his MA in history, has since been welcomed with open arms by the ‘neo-conservative’ / reactionary Quadrant magazine, which re-published his MA thesis on ‘Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the West’ in the March 2005 edition. Brander also addressed a post-graduate conference organised by the University of Sydney in July 2005, and is currently alleged to be publishing a zine called Australian Resurgence. Interestingly, veteran racist Colin Wuttke stood for the SA seat of Ramsay in 2006 as an ‘Independent’ sponsored by ‘Australian Resurgence’; a long time between drinks for Wuttke, who last contested a seat in 1980.

Saleam, on the other hand, after his release from jail, attached himself to the white supremacist Australia First Party; and to this day remains their Fuehrer.

Heil!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2014 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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11 Responses to Anti-fascism in Melbourne: 1990s

  1. dj says:

    Brander studied at the University of Adelaide in the 1990s. He once walked out of a showing of Romper Stomper (which was being shown as part of a History course) after only about five minutes of the film. My friend and I had been sitting right in front of him and we and the lecturer thought this quite amusing. Of course, without his meat shields, he wasn’t brave enough to go into one of his rants about the syphilitic liberal Jewish film industry or the like.

    From memory, there was also a march down at Glenelg during this time, where a whole bunch of NA/biker types made a big display of walking down Jetty Rd. (I think).

    I also got accused of being a ‘race traitor’ by some bonehead walking down Hindley St. with a Viet Namese friend at around this time. NA posters were regularly found around Adelaide’s suburbs – I would often deface them and there were group poster runs by various groups to deface or paper over them. The NA and their friends were pretty cocky then, I think they really believed their own publicity.

  2. deadreads says:

    I would like to go into the bullshit factor of that pissweak attempt at a post but I would be here too long.

  3. @ndy says:

    Make think make brain hurt? It hard make think when brain hurt. Better make things with hands maybe. Then try make things look Hitler. Him good. Leader. Him die. Make cry with tears. Make more brain hurt. So make picture. See? Hitler good. Me good. Then walk on road with picture. Make other look. See? Me big too. Just like him. And Ian. Ian dead. Him good, but maybe not good more than Hitler. Me drink Birmy too. It good pub. Gary good publican. Punks like too.

    Them smart like me.

    (Btw meathead, is that deadrEAds or deadrEds? Either way, yr a deadSET wanker, and no mistake.)

  4. Red says:

    Thank you @ndy for your interesting and newsy anti-fascist article.

    In 2003 there was some fascist — obviously from a Spanish background and using the avatar El Cid — who was playing an agent provocateur role in political open forums set up to discuss the Iraq War.

    Im thinking it was Brander.

    Regards,
    Red.

  5. @ndy says:

    Cheers Red.

    Brander gets it from his Mum, who has (had) a rep for being a barkingly mad fan of Franco.

  6. Dear Slackbastard,

    Because of the lack of State Government support for the plan by Yarra Council and indigenous groups for a cultural centre, dry house, and 24-hour bus for Smith St, Collingwood, the problems there are not going away.
    Derryn Hinch on 3AW and the Sunday Herald Sun are pushing for Joh Bjelke Petersen-style police action to deal with public behaviour problems on Smith St.
    There is a better way – support for indigenous people to deal with the issues themselves. We will not allow a Howard NT-style ‘solution’ to be foisted on this area. Show your opposition to racism and for real, united concrete action to deal with the issues on Smith St.
    Hoping to see you on Friday.
    Stephen Jolly, Councillor for Yarra, Langridge Ward (covering Smith St)

    Rally leaflet text:

    Bracks, Smith St needs your support!

    * We need a 24-hour indigenous-run bus to take people needing help to a dry house or cultural centre. The bus is ready to go but held back by a lack of State government support. Steve Bracks and Richard Wynne we need your help not more delays!
    * No to any racist solutions to Smith St public behaviour issues. Unity not racism to improve our street.

    Rally Friday next, July 27th, 5pm
    Outside Safeway, 243 Smith St, Collingwood

    Speakers include:

    DEAN RIOLI, ex-Essendon footy star and now Indigenous Apprenticeship officer for the Electrical Trades Union
    DENISE LOVETT, Parkies Inc leader
    GARY FOLEY, Aboriginal activist and Melbourne Uni academic
    KEVIN BRACKEN, State Secretary Maritime Union of Australia
    STEPHEN JOLLY, local Councillor (Socialist Party)
    PLUS: Live music from Peter Rotuham

    Rally organised by Socialist Party and supported by many community groups and trade unions. Please pass on news of this important rally widely by email, web page, text, and word of mouth. Phone (03) 96399111 or email info@socialistpartyaustralia.org for leaflets and posters.

  7. Melb.Skin says:

    This site is always so amusing… Ha ha ha.

  8. @ndy says:

    It’s a funny old world.

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