Around 70 or so people attended “The Battle Of Eltham” today, the great majority non-locals from Sydney (Party For Freedom), Bendigo and Melton (True Blue Crew). All The Usual Suspects were present: Sergio Redegalli; Nick Folkes (pictured above), Toby Cook and George Jameson (PFF); Kane Miller, Paul ‘Guru’ Franzi & Co. (TBC); The Angry Gnome Jay B Moore & his wannabe bikies (Soldiers Of Odin) et al. Also guest starring (sic) were valour thief and serial pest Ralph Cerminara and (!) Richard Lalich (Australian Defence League); Blair Cottrell and Thomas Sewell (United Patriots Front); UPF lackeys Julian de Ross and John Wilkinson; John Bolton (Reclaim Australia, Adelaide) and a handful of other boofheads.
Something in the order of 200 or so other people joined Diamond Yarra Valley Resistance Solidarity (DYVRS) for a gathering and march, while several thousand more — including the supporters of ‘Welcome to Eltham’ — gathered in the city for a refugee rally. A good account of the day’s events in Eltham is provided by Kieran Bennett in Far-Right Outnumbered In Eltham (November 5, 2016), while the ABC published Eltham refugee rally: Scores turn out to support Syrian refugees being resettled; The Age Battle for Eltham: Welcoming butterflies a background to anti-refugee protests, The Guardian Victorian anti-refugee rally: counter-protesters turn up in strength and SBS (AAP) Pro and anti-refugee protests in Melbourne.
The relatively small number who rallied under Folkes’ PFF banner is indicative of two things. One, there’s very little sympathy for those opposed to the housing project in the local community, especially when this opposition is being proclaimed by racist thugs. Two, the brief popularity enjoyed by Reclaim Australia and the UPF as a vehicle for racist, right-wing and xenophobic discontent — especially in Bendigo and, to a lesser extent, in Melton — has largely collapsed. This is likely due both to opposition and the failure to achieve very much through public mobilisations, but is also likely related to the various legal problems encountered by some of its adherents, most obviously in the case of alleged terrorist and TBC supporter Phillip Galea. So too, the prosecution of Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson and Chris Shortis for racial and/or religious villification. As noted previously, John Wilkinson and Linden Watson, though also taking part in the UPF stunt in Bendigo, have escaped prosecution. Notably, Wilkinson had close dealings with Galea, allegedly providing him with cattle prods for use on leftist demonstrators.
At this stage, the next hate rally is scheduled for January in Sydney under the auspices of Reclaim Australia. In any event, the photo below, courtesy of JE, sums things up in Eltham today I think: a racist teenybopper from the True Blue Crew giving the finger to locals.
Well that pretty much summed up the day. Good wins over evil…simple.
Tell those racists to “go back to where they came from”. Ludicrous they came here to create trouble. Using words like Battle for Eltham … puh-lease. Making mountain out of a molehill.
Love the burqa on the kid giving the finger.
‘They’re trying really hard to be racist’: the wingnuts’ wingnuts on parade
November 7, 2016
According to reports in The Guardian and The Age, the butterflies won the day. The butterflies stencilled on the streets and painted on the trees were a creative response to the “Battle of Eltham” anti-immigration rally staged by various (very) far-right organisations, including the True Blue Crew, the Party of Freedom and the Soldiers of Odin, on Saturday in Melbourne’s north-east. Anti-racist activists held a “welcome to Eltham” rally a short distance away, and the police were out in force in this usually quiet Melbourne suburb.
Alas, I ended up spending most of the day with the self-described patriots and missing out on the butterflies altogether. As more and more patriots in black combat jackets and T-shirts emblazoned with racist logos gathered in St Andrews Park, I noticed that several of the scariest-looking men who had been lurking near the station were yet to arrive at the rally itself. I imagined them lying in wait for any stray Muslim leftie scum such as myself who might happen to cross their path and decided that it was safer to stay in the park. I might be surrounded on all sides by a crowd that could accurately be described as the wingnuts’ wingnuts, but at least it was an open space with lines of police close to hand.
The patriots claimed to be protesting against plans by St Vincent’s to house newly arrived refugees in a disused section of a local aged care home. However, like the Reclaim Australia rally in Melton last year, which was supposedly protesting against an application to build an Islamic school on a site the patriots claimed ought to be used to expand a local special needs school (regardless of the fact that the school said that it had no interest in relocating), this rally to “defend our aged” was simply a vehicle for hate and exclusion.
Very few of the anti-refugee protesters were concerned citizens of Eltham, and any who were stood out for their highly visible normality. Instead, the male-dominated crowd favoured black combat jackets and T-shirts with logos like “Rapeugees Not Welcome”. A trickle of locals stopped past to take a look at the rally and to say that they didn’t want refugees disrupting the tranquility of their old people, but most quickly moved on. An elderly woman with an unusual companion animal (“but don’t report that or I’ll come back and shoot you! Everyone knows that I’m the lady with the [unusual companion animal]!”) told me that while in general it was lovely for old people to have children around, that was “normal” children. These would be refugee children, out of control and running around all over the place.
It was the friendliest rhetorical death threat that I’ve ever received, and the companion animal was nuzzling up to me at the time. And despite her suspicion of refugees, its owner was visibly repulsed by the sight of a young woman in a Donald Trump T-shirt.
“Take that thing off! That’s not what we’re about. American politics scares me — it’s much more extreme than ours.” She leaned towards me and whispered confidingly “I voted Liberal!”
The Aboriginal flags that had been flown so ostentatiously at the Reclaim Australia rallies were missing at the Eltham rally, although I did notice one man wearing an Aboriginal flag T-shirt “because I’m Aboriginal”.
“Right. I notice that it says ‘Socialist Alternative’ down the bottom there — see?”
“Yeah, I’m going to get rid of that,” he said, sounding almost touchingly baffled as he stretched out his T-shirt for a closer look.
John Bolton stood out from the rest of the patriots as well for the suit that he wore in keeping with his rank as a barrister. And given that my carefully cultivated veneer of nondescript did nothing to disguise the fact that I was several shades darker than anyone else in the park and walk with a crutch, it wasn’t hard for Bolton to recognise me from our previous encounter at a Reclaim rally in Melton last year.
“I remember you. You call yourself a journalist.”
“And an academic.”
“Yeah? What are your qualifications for calling yourself an academic?”
“I have a PhD from the Australian National University.”
“And what is your PhD in?”
“So not a real science, then.”
Bolton opened the rally with a speech calling for a ban on the Koran because “if you come to Australia, you must leave your barbarian ways behind!” He was followed by Sergio Redegalli, who described how his “say no to burqas” mural in Newtown had been vandalised more than 90 times because “the left” only believes in freedom of speech when it’s saying something that they agree with. No one seemed to notice any contradiction between the two speakers.
On and on it went, one speaker after another claiming that refugees had committed “rape and pillage” in Europe, that “we” needed to protect “our” aged and (of course) “our women” and “our jobs” and “our housing” and even “our car insurance premiums” (wtf?) from the threat posed by “Muslim rapeugees”.
At one point, the organisers thought that they might be about to get the battle they’d been calling for when they announced that some of the Marxists had managed to break through police lines and were about to enter the park. However, the “Marxists” turned out to be the intimidating men who I’d noticed near the station. The Soldiers of Odin marched into the park in paramilitary-style formation, Australian flags held high and chanting “Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi!”
“It’s like a cult, isn’t it?” a woman who told me that she worked in a local aged care home and was opposed to the refugee housing project because she knew how hard it was for elderly people to get a place. “They’re trying really hard to be racist.”
And in a world in which Pauline Hanson is serving on the NBN Senate Committee and Donald Trump may yet end up triumphing in the US presidential election later this week, racists do have to go the extra mile to differentiate their brand. The real danger posed by the misfits who assembled in Eltham on Saturday is that they make One Nation seem like moderates, while One Nation in turn makes the government’s internment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru seem humanitarian by comparison.
But the Eltham locals who are currently opposed to the refugee housing plan may end up softening their stance in order to differentiate themselves from the patriots who marched through their streets on Saturday. The woman who said that she was opposed to housing refugees in their local aged care home told me that she thought she had seen a few of the refugees themselves being shown around town a few days earlier. A support worker had been showing a woman in a headscarf around the grocery store. She had a young child in a pram and they were being introduced to the locals.
“That’s lovely,” I said. She didn’t disagree. And I’m hopeful that as such scenes become more commonplace in Eltham, some of the others who are currently opposed to the refugee housing plan will come to regard these encounters as lovely, too.
“According to reports in The Guardian and The Age, the butterflies won the day.”
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? The liberal media don’t like the Fash, but they like anti-Fascist struggle even less. Our side outnumbered the Fash more than 2-1 on Saturday, but we left the field of battle before the other side entered it. And, in the aftermath, Fascists strutted the streets of Eltham like they owned the joint and took over a pub. The handful of Leftists who were still there and hadn’t gone home decided to leave.
It could have been different, though this would only have been possible if the rally had been organised differently. I spoke to a middle aged woman on our rally, an Eltham resident, who was outraged when she found we were going to finish our rally before the Fash started theirs. And a couple of dozen locals showed up outside the Fash’s rally anyway, to give them grief. If the Eltham rally had been organised to disrupt the Fascists, we would have had a bloody good show of doing it. Instead, the people who normally give grief to the coppers & the Fash were the ones maintaining order, making sure nobody did anything that disrupted their plans for a tightly controlled event that the coppers absolutely loved. Oh how the Trots laughed!
Thanks for your input ablokeimet but I think you missed the point entirely. DYVRS from its inception has been focused on outcomes not dogma. We set ourselves 3 aims:
a. to do nothing to compromise the housing of refugees at Eltham (eg having a street battle outside a dementia ward);
b. to demonstrate clearly to the fash, to Eltham and to the wider public that the local support for the refugee project was overwhelming and;
c. to build the beginnings of an anti-fash, social capital building local movement.
I’m pretty sure we ticked all those boxes, plus made the imported fash look like the cartoon goons they are to an audience of hundreds of thousands. Does that mean DYVRS would employ the same tactics in a different situation … unlikely. I’m reminded of the USMC Colonel at the Paris peace conference who chided a diminutive Vietnamese General that the NVA had never defeated US forces in open battle. He smiled and replied “Yes indeed, but that is not the point is it Colonel?” and walked away. You can keep your dogma, we care about results not street theatre.
DYVRS: “DYVRS from its inception has been focused on outcomes not dogma.”
What DYVRS is calling dogma is what I call my political theory. It’s what connects my actions in the present to the outcomes I wish to achieve. Everybody has a political theory, but most people aren’t aware of theirs. I usually find that, when people say they are discarding dogma, there are aspects of what they’re doing that they can’t reconcile with the political theory they uphold. I hope this is not the case for DYVRS.
In terms of the objectives mentioned, I can’t quarrel with A & B, but I’m not sure that C has been properly understood. The “we’ll be conservative at the start and let our radicalism out later” tactic has two major dangers:
1. It leaves the group open to redbaiting. The best defence against redbaiting is if the entire politics of the group are in the open from the beginning. The danger of redbaiting lies in depriving the group of allies at the point where it comes under attack. If the group’s entire politics have been open from the beginning, the response of allies will be to say “Well? Tell us something we didn’t know.”
2. Starting a group with a conservative action and recruiting people to it on the basis of the results of that action risks importing into the group major strategic differences that will cause internal conflict when the founders want to move on to something more radical. Groups often become more conservative as they grow, but the strategy DYVRS has adopted aggravates that risk.
Neither of these points means that DYVRS is condemned to a conservative strategy for the long term, but I do think the initial action was one that made the necessary course harder rather than easier.
Finally: “You can keep your dogma, we care about results not street theatre.”
That is a pejorative comment and very similar to the ones I’ve often seen made by conservative Socialist groups (e.g. Socialist Alliance) in criticising Anarchists. I haven’t impugned unworthy motives to DYVRS and I would hope DYVRS would do me the honour of reciprocating.