Cronulla 2.0? : Racist assembly @ St Kilda Beach, Saturday, January 5, 2019

[Update (January 8, 2019) : Rather than compose another post, I thought I’d update this one with some more infos arising from Saturday’s hate-rally. The first segment concerns police deployment of capsicum spray and use of rubber pellets; the second, the employment by NITV and SBS of neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell on the renovations to their centre at Federation Square in Melbourne.]

Capsicum & Pellets

Among all the media reportage on events at St Kilda on Saturday, one thing that caught my eye was the following (St Kilda beach rally: far-right and anti-racism groups face off in Melbourne, Lisa Martin, The Guardian, January 6, 2019):

In one heated confrontation a rightwing protester broke through police lines and tried to grab a banner from three anti-racism campaigners.

Police sprayed capsicum spray and used rubber pellets before arresting the rightwing protester.

It caught my attention partly on account of what others related to me about the incident. This is their account:

The incident occurred when the anti-racist contingent went out on to the road at Beaconsfield Parade and the fascists were on the embankment leading up to The Esplanade. A few of the fascists started running down the hill and Beaconsfield Parade. At this point, most of the remaining fascists followed them, and the main contingent of the anti-racist rally did as well. This meant that the police followed the main groups (and the fastest-moving parts of those groups) down the road. This left the back of the anti-racist rally completely exposed to both the slower-moving fascists and the ones staying on the embankment.

As there was no police line separating the back end of the rally from the fascists, three anti-racist activists held a banner as a first-line of defence. At this point, a member of the fascist rally approached the three activists holding the banner and tried to rip it out of their hands. The three anti-racists pulled the banner, back but at this point police entered from behind the anti-racists and pepper-sprayed the three of them. As the pepper spray was deployed, the three anti-racist activists and another witness heard at least three loud ‘pops’ in quick succession.

No one was injured from whatever was shot (pepper-ball pellets or rubber pellets) and no-one was marked with dye. However, the OC spray was quite severe. Two women required medical treatment (the pepper spray was mainly levelled against the defensive position of the anti-racists). They were decontaminated on the side of Beaconsfield Parade, initially by other anti-racists, and eventually by paramedics. Those who had just been attacked by the fascists, and then by police, were left exposed as their injuries were treated and as fascists walked past, filmed them, mocked them, and called the women ‘bitches’ and ‘scum’.

We all believe that the police deployed their new weapons, as well as the usual OC spray, and then immediately left the area, without accounting for their behaviour.

Blair Cottrell, NITV, SBS, & Federation Square

According to a source, neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, in addition to leading the hate-rally in St Kilda on Saturday, has been working as a sub-contractor on the renovations to the building in Federation Square which houses SBS and NITV. As of (very) recently, he’s been re-deployed elsewhere, but was working at the site throughout the Christmas period, in December and January: the precise date on which he commenced working there is unclear.

Cottrell is on the record as advocating the execution of ‘leftist’ media workers. In November 2015, he — along with Neil Erikson, Chris Shortis, Linden Watson and Andrew Wallis — staged a brief occupation of community radio station 3CR. While there, they took notes on staff and stole photographs (and, it seems possible, other d0x).

On that basis, it seems reasonable to conclude that, during the weeks he spent working on site, African, Muslim and Indigenous staff members were potentially exposed to an unsafe work environment. Further, Cottrell has potentially had access to sensitive information; certainly, he’s had the opportunity to put faces to names, acquire detailed knowledge about access to and egress from the building, the comings and goings of particular staff members, and so on.

For the record, nobody much cared about the invasion of 3CR. It’s a small, community-based organisation, targeted on account of my involvement in hosting a radio show there. SBS and NITV, on the other hand, are large media organisations, with many employees and sizable budgets, so it’s possible that Cottrell’s employment there, and seemingly ready-access to its staff and layout, may prompt more serious reflection. At this stage, it remains unclear if the site was a union job, and who exactly was responsible for his employment in the first place. Thus, while members of his extended family run a company called ‘Cottrell Constructions’, via which he’s apparently obtained work, I dunno if this company or some other was contracted to undertake work at Federation Square.

All of which sounds like lines of inquiry that a journalist might like to pursue eh.

[Update (January 7, 2019) : See also : St Kilda rally: A fascist movement can only be kept small if we call it by its name, Jason Wilson, The Guardian, January 7, 2019.]

[I’ve briefly revived the blog in order to write the following. I’m still gonna be taking a break in January, and unpublishing the facebook page. I may add to the post in the next few days as further infos comes to light.]

Aiming to capitalise upon media-driven panic over African youth crime, on Saturday, January 5, serial pest Neil Erikson joined with neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell to organise a racist rally at St Kilda Beach. While estimates vary, and numbers fluctuated during the course of the afternoon, somewhere around 150 people attended their rally, the great majority men and almost all white/’of Anglo appearance’. A larger crowd of perhaps 2-300 attended two anti-racist events on the same strip of beach: one a community picnic, and the other an anti-racist rally organised by the Campaign Against Racism & Fascism (CARF). Both the picnic and rally were scheduled to kick-off at midday, with Erikson and Cottrell’s event due to start at 1pm.

While scheduled to end at 4pm, as it happened the racist rally didn’t last that long and, after perhaps an hour or so of (no-doubt electrifying) speeches — including an address by Senator Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning — it abruptly ended. Those who’d assembled then turned their attention to the anti-racist contingent, which by this point had formed one grouping around the picnic, the CARF contingent having marched the very short distance from Catani Arch to join the picnickers. The next hour or two saw various attempts by the racist mob to break the police lines that had formed around the anti-racist contingent. While generally unsuccessful, the mob was free to roam around the police kettle, and continued to harass anti-racists, including when they attempted to leave the area. (For whatever reason, when CARF initially tried (unsuccessfully) to leave the area by crossing Beaconsfield Parade to the Esplanade, the anti-racist assembly was split in half, with the picnickers left behind, and only later being able to leave — either along the Parade, and eventually rejoining CARF — or by another route.)

At various points during this protracted exit from the area, there were brief clashes involving the two sides. In this sense, policing of the event mirrored to some extent that witnessed at the Milo stoopid of December 2017. On that occasion, police were content to allow a small group of fascists to occupy the intersection outside the venue (Melbourne Pavilion) for several hours. On Saturday, the racist mob assembled on Beaconsfield Parade to taunt anti-racists. At one stage, during the (at first) static confrontation between the kettled anti-racists in the park and their loyal opposition (located between it and the road), Some Guy driving a sound system along the Parade paused alongside the racist mob, and two adventurous lads from within the crowd stole a generator from the vehicle. (I understand that they later abandoned the equipment, which was collected by police.) Or as the ABC reported: The conflict spilled onto the road when far-right demonstrators attacked a car which was carrying a loudspeaker broadcasting “Sudanese are welcome, racists are not”.

As the afternoon progressed, there were multiple opportunities for clashes between the two sides, and I’m mildly surprised nobody was seriously injured in these encounters: police reported just three arrests, possibly including that of Rino ‘Bluebeard’ Grgurovic (above). As media have noted, the police presence was massive on the day, with many hundreds mobilised for the occasion, including regular police, uniformed and plainclothes, dog and horse, PORT, undercover, community liaison and specialist media. They also had a helicopter — and a boat!

    1) The racists assembled in the area outside Encore Restaurant near the car park. (It’s been reported that Erikson & Co were getting their drink on from relatively early on at the restaurant.)
    2) The general area in which the racist assembly gathered on Beaconsfield Parade.
    3) The brown lines indicate the movements of the racist mob during the course of the day, walking to the rally along the foreshore and trailing anti-racists as they left the picnic area, eventually reaching Luna Park; the blue line is where several hundred onlookers gawped at the spectacle from the Esplanade.
    4) CARF assembly point.
    5) Community picnic.

In terms of who attended, many were known faces and/or drawn from the various groups which have sprung up in Melbourne in the last few years. So Cottrell and Erikson were joined by former United Patriots Front supporters, Kane Miller and the True Blue Crew, Jason Moore and a handful of Soldiers of Odin, half-a-dozen Proud Boys, Tom Sewell and members of The Lads Society from Melbourne and Sydney (and possibly elsewhere), including its Sydney organisers Alex Annenkov and Mark McDonald (the latter of which was the chief organiser of defunct neo-Nazi grouplet ‘Squadron 88’), and so on. Most were not flying colours on the day, however, and most who attended would seem to have been drawn from the wider white nationalist, anti-African and anti-Muslim milieu, the principal platform for which is facebook. Sewell and The Lads arrived a bit late in the piece, and at first appeared to want to march through the anti-racist crowd, but eventually decided not to. Their arrival did, however, appear to be the trigger for the racist rally as a whole to begin to move to surround the anti-racist picnic and attempt to find ways around police lines to attack.

Finally:

• Senator Fraser Anning’s attendance at the racist rally has been noted. Laughably claiming that the nazi contingent was leftists-in-disguise, his trip was, according to the Senator, official business (ie, The Taxpayer footed the bill for his expedition to St Kilda), and in solidarity with the Vietnamese community. One of the fellas pictured above does a very good line in racist rhetoric directed at African-Australians, and promoted the event on facebook by way of terming it ‘Romper Stomper 2.0’, seemingly (and presumably blissfully) unaware that the 1992 film pitted boneheads against Vietnamese-Australian workers.

• One racist meathead in attendance at the rally sported an SS helmet and a Cosmic Psychos tee. The Cosmic Psychos issued a statement in response to the meathead’s use of their merch. Note that the dickhead was pictured in the company of Kane Miller, the lvl boss of the TBC: Miller and the TBC have worked in close collaboration with nazis for several years now.

• The anti-racist and anti-fascist contingent was on the whole poorly-coordinated. At best, this is a good opportunity for those involved to reflect upon what happened, and think about ways in which to improve upon Saturday’s outing. In this context, I’d suggest that, inter alia, a better understanding of the nature of the opposition is required, as is having a very clear idea of what the purpose of attendance is, along with movement within, to and from the event and the area as a whole. In other words, it’s not just a matter of rocking up, but having an exit strategy. That said, there was relatively little time to prepare for the event, it only being announced about a week prior to its occurrence, so there was always going to be some limitations.

• On the whole, I think that the far right had a good day on Saturday. Able to roam about with relative ease, being much more mobile and appearing to be both more able and willing to engage with the enemy, was certainly an advantage. As a result, I’d be very surprised if they don’t take advantage of the relative momentum generated by the event, and will be organising similar events in the near future.

Select media reportage

(January 5, 2019) : Huge Crowds In St Kilda As Police Separate Far-Right And Anti-Racist Groups, Josh Butler, ten daily | St Kilda Beach far-right rally draws hundreds of Melbourne police, rival protesters, Loretta Florance and Jean Edwards, ABC | St Kilda beach rally: far-right and anti-racism groups face off in Melbourne, Lisa Martin, The Guardian | Here’s Senator Fraser Anning Hanging Out With A Bunch Of Far Right Extremists, Tom Clift, Junkee | Arrests and violence as rival protests clash in St Kilda, The New Daily/AAP | Extreme right-wing ‘patriot’ rally in Melbourne: Nazi salutes and scuffles, police on high alert, Shannon Molloy, news dot com dot au | Race Discrimination Commissioner condemns far-right rally in Melbourne, SBS/AAP.

(January 6, 2019) : Scott Morrison Condemns ‘Ugly Racial Protests’ At St Kilda, But Not Fraser Anning, Emma Brancatisano, ten daily | Australian senator attends far-right rally in Melbourne as protesters perform Nazi salutes, Lizzie Dearden, The Independent | Australian PM condemns ‘ugly’ Melbourne rallies involving right-wing extremists, anti-fascists, tvnz/AAP.

(January 7, 2019) : Fraser Anning billed taxpayers thousands to attend two more far-right events, Max Koslowski & Michael Koziol, The Sydney Morning Herald.

(January 8, 2019) : Fascists Rallying over a Fallacy: Nazi Sentiment Seen as Acceptable by Some, Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

See also : Quiet riot: The race to ‘another Cronulla’, Benjamin Millar, medium, January 3, 2019.

Depends What You Mean By Extremist : A Review (of sorts)

I’ve just finished reading John Safran‘s new book Depends What You Mean By Extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables (Penguin, 2017). Having been a resident in these parts for some time, I enjoyed tagging along with John as he romped through this ‘mad world of misfits’ in ‘the year the extreme became the mainstream’, and had some fun identifying (or trying to identify) the various characters in the book, frequently shielded by pseudonyms. While reactions among friends and comrades has been mixed, and I haven’t read too many reviews as yet, Simon McDonald reckons it’s an easy-reading but hard-hitting expose of political extremism in STRAYA, which I suppose is apt. So in lieu of a proper, y’know, literary review, I thought that, as an anarchist and someone who’s also paid close attention to the far right Down Under, I’d jot down a few notes.

Overall, few of the ‘extremists’ in the book, whether nominally anarchist or Muslim or patriotik, are depicted as being much more than laughable, even if — with the possible exception of the teenybopper who organised the pro-Trump rally in Melbourne in November last year — they’re not engaged in ‘politics’ for the #lulz, and even if for some, principally the Muslim radicals, their religiopolitical practice can entail some fairly serious repercussions (arrest and prosecution, imprisonment, even death). With regards the far right in particular, the cast of characters includes most if not all of the individuals I’ve previously referred to on the blog and who’ve assumed central roles in the far right’s most recent and spectacular excursions into public life: Shermon Burgess aka ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’ (Australian Defence League/Reclaim Australia/United Patriots Front), Ralph Cerminara (ADL), Blair Cottrell (Nationalist Alternative/UPF), Rosalie Crestani (Rise Up Australia Party), Neil Erikson (Reclaim Australia/UPF), Nick Folkes (Party for Freedom), Dennis Huts (UPF), Scott ‘Potty Mouth’ Moerland (RUAP/UPF), Danny Nalliah (RUAP/UPF), Debbie Robinson (Q Society/Australian Liberty Alliance), Dr Jim Saleam (Australia First Party), ‘Farma’ John Wilkinson (UPF), Avi Yemini — even geriatric neo-Nazi Ross ‘The Skull’ May makes a brief cameo.*

Perhaps the most coherent perspective, surprisingly enough, is provided by UPF fuehrer Blair Cottrell, who outlines a rational (if rather unlikely) pathway to state power for him and his mates, and for whom the hullabaloo over halals represents merely a convenient platform from which to practice his best Hitler impersonation. Notably, Der Uber Der confesses (p.152) to viewing his followers in much the same way as he views Jews: as divided into highborn and lowborn, order-givers and order-takers. (Of course, there are no prizes for guessing to which category Blair assigns himself.) The seeming absurdities and contradictions which plague the various deplorable characters in the book are remarked upon continually throughout the text: valour thief, serial pest and implacable opponent of Islam, Communism, ‘Third World’ immigration and multi-culturalism, Ralph Cerminara (pp.23–27), apparently has an Italian father, an Aboriginal mother, and a Vietnamese partner, while Dr Jim Saleam causes other white nationalists to snigger behind his back on account of his Lebanese ancestry. John is also keen to underline the fact that religion, especially Christian evangelicalism and fundamentalism, plays a critical role in the worldview of a large segment of Deplorable Australians. Enter Danny Nalliah’s Catch The Fire Ministries/Rise Up Australia Party, that grouping which has done the most to add some, ah, colour, to the various events organised by Reclaim and the UPF. Speaking of Danny, Scott Moerland also stars as ‘Mr Normal’ (p.79). Well for a time at least, before eventually being revealed as being ‘some sort of doomsday Christian’ (p.84): a fact which helps explain why he ran as the RUAP candidate for Oxley at the 2013 federal election (Scott got 400 votes or 0.43% for his troubles).

Those Opposed

In terms of mobilising opposition to Reclaim Australia, the UPF, et. al., the book concentrates on one project: No Room For Racism (NRFR) in Melbourne, for which Mel Gregson is deemed the ‘matriarch’ (p.92). For those of you coming in late, NRFR was established in early 2015 in order to promote opposition to the first (April 4, 2015) Reclaim rally in Melbourne. (Other anti-fascist and anti-racist groups and projects emerged in other towns and cities at the same time.) After April 4, another campaigning group was established in Melbourne called Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF), but its activities play no part in John’s account. In any case, given that both NRFR and CARF are capable of making their own assessments, in the remainder of this post I’m gonna concentrate on a coupla Muslim figures portrayed in the book, before concluding with an assessment of John’s portrayal of my comrades, Les Anarchistes.

(Radikal) Muslims

The ‘extreme’ Muslims featured in the book are Musa Cerantonio, some bloke called ‘Hamza’ and some other fella named ‘Youssef’. Also making a special guest appearance is ‘Ahmet the Turk’, and in ‘The Sufi in the garden’ (pp.40-44), John meets a Sufi; someone who might function as a ‘counterpoint’ to two other Muslims (Musa and Hamza) he talks to about Islam and politics. While the ‘Sufi’ is, like other characters in the book, unnamed, it wasn’t too difficult for me to work out to whom John might be referring. For what it’s worth, they have a very different recollection of their conversation to John’s. Later in the book (p.224), John makes reference to a ‘famous-enough Muslim’, and pays particular attention to something the Islamic semi-idol posted on their Facebook page. Again, it wasn’t too difficult for me to discover who this person is, and I thought it would be worthwhile examining the incident a little more closely, both because of what it reveals about the writing process, but also because it helps shape what eventually becomes one of the key themes of the text: anti-Semitism and its (ab)uses. John writes:

‘We, French-Muslims, are ready to assume our responsibilities.’ Dozens of celebrities and academics have written a letter to a Paris newspaper. The signatories say that local Muslim communities must work harder to stop the extremists in their midst, and to honour those killed the letter lists all the recent terrorist attacks in France.

Except one.

The one at the kosher deli.

‘You are ready to assume your responsibilities’, writes a French Jewish leader in reply, ‘but you are off to a bad start. You need to understand that these anti-Semitic attacks were committed against Jews, who were targetted for being Jewish. In any case we’ll always be here to remind you.’

Those signatories aren’t the only Muslims who believe in Jewish exceptionalism. From France to my hometown …

In which context, a few things:

• The terrorist attack on the kosher deli/the Porte de Vincennes siege (January 2015) involved a man who’d pledged allegiance to Daesh/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, killing four Jewish shoppers and holding others hostage before being shot dead by French police.
• The statement by some French Muslims was published in Le Journal du Dimanche on July 31, 2016 (see : “Nous, Français et musulmans, sommes prêts à assumer nos responsabilités”). The letter makes explicit reference to five terrorist attacks: at Charlie Hebdo (January 2015); at Bataclan theatre (November 2015); at Magnanville (June 2016); at Bastille Day celebrations in Nice and at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (July 2016). The list is not exhaustive. Thus the letter fails to reference the Toulouse and Montauban shootings of March 2012 (in which a French rabbi, among others, was shot dead), the La Défense attack (May 2013), the Tours police station stabbing (December 2014), the February 2015 stabbing of three French soldiers on patrol outside a Jewish community centre in Nice, an attack upon churches in Villejuif in April 2015, the Saint-Quentin-Fallavier attack of June 2015, the Thalys train attack of August 2015, a man who drove his car into soldiers protecting a mosque in Valence in January 2016, an attack upon a police station in Paris later that month and, finally, an attack upon a family at a holiday resort in Garda-Colombe in July 2016.
• The French Jewish leader is Robert J. Ejnes, Executive Director at the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF)/Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. He posted a comment in response to the statement on his Facebook account on July 31, 2016 [https://www.facebook.com/robert.ejnes/posts/10155122557237942]; the CRIF later posted a modified version of this comment on August 1, 2016. See : Jewish Leader Slams French Muslims for Omitting anti-Semitic Violence From Anti-jihad Petition, Haaretz, August 1, 2016.
• Given that my French-language skills are as advanced as my admiration for Carlton FC, it’s a little difficult to follow the story of the statement, but it’s worth noting that, in response to the criticisms leveled at it of ‘Jewish exceptionalism’, on August 1, 2016, one of the signatories, Socialist Party politician Bariza Khia, published a statement on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/bariza.khiari/posts/10154298138245900] — later added to the statement published in Le Journal du Dimanche and endorsed by all signatories — in which the signatories claim that the omissions were not deliberate, that they wished to avoid unnecessary controversy, and that ‘Jewish students in Toulouse or clients of the Hyper-Kosher murdered because they were Jews, a Catholic priest martyred in his church, a soldier or a Muslim policeman slaughtered in service … the list of victims is terribly long and so diverse, our nation in all its components, that we must face adversity together’ [machinetranslation]. I suppose it would also be worth adding that it was a Muslim immigrant from Mali who saved the lives of other Jewish shoppers at the supermarket, an action which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised (even if Robert Ejnes did not). See : Malian Muslim hailed for saving lives at Paris market, France24, January 12, 2015.

To return to Almost Famous, John writes that:

… I see today that he’s busy on Facebook, tormenting a family of Israeli immigrants (so, to be clear, Australians) who run the cafe around the corner from my flat. A Muslim friend of his wandered in for a snack a few hours ago and spotted an item on the menu: ‘Israeli breakfast’. Finding out that the family running the cafe are Israeli, she lashed out at them, freaking out everyone in the cafe, and now the famous-enough Muslim is lashing out too, ‘exposing’ this family for being Israeli …

… His Facebook fans pile on: Jews are stingy, so no doubt this Israeli breakfast is the stingiest breakfast ever. That sort of thing.

Again, for what it’s worth:

• While John implies that the discussion takes place sometime in late 2016, in reality the Facebook post is over three years old (May 2013).
• The friend is not described as being ‘Muslim’ but rather ‘Palestinian’.
• According to the account relayed by Famous-Enough Funny-Man: the Palestinian woman cancelled her order because she found out it was an Israeli business; when the owner demanded to know why, she said ‘Because Israel occupies my land’. Allegedly, the owner then followed the Palestinian woman down the street, abused her, and told her to never come near his café again.
• While the post has some caustic commentary, nobody accuses Jews of being ‘stingy’. [EDIT (May 21, 2017) : Somebody did comment to that effect but at some point b/w now + then it was deleted.]
• While I’ve got no idea what happened, and either account could be true, in John’s retelling the Palestinian has become a Muslim, and even if one believes that it’s wrongful for a Palestinian to boycott an Israeli business on account of Israel’s colonial status, a national conflict has become a religiously-motivated one. (Surely there are better examples of anti-Semitic actions on the part of local Muslims than the above?)

Anyways, back to John (p.229):

But hey, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should drop in on Mrs Sneer and Mr Snort at the Melbourne Anarchist Club and they can explain to me how spreading avocado over soft-toasted challah is in fact structural violence.

Which would seem as good a time as any to examine how ratbag anarchists are portrayed in the book.

Mrs Sneer & Mr Snort

As part of his journalisms, John joins the UPF as they party after their second rally in Bendigo in October 2015. (A detour finds him at the wrogn pub, one at which members of ‘Nationalist Alternative’ — ‘They’re like the UPF except they don’t sugarcoat their views on Jews’ — are drinking. Not mentioned in the book is the fact that Blair Cottrell, along with Neil Erikson, is a former member of the tiny groupuscule.) Partying with the UPF includes being filmed doing shots of tequila with them. This is later shared by the UPF on their Facebook page, where they jokingly claim that John is now an official member of the gang. John notes that the reception by some on the left to this example of fraternising with teh enimy is frosty. According to John (p.92), ‘The Melbourne Anarchist Club — those guys who turn up to the rallies with their faces wrapped in bandannas — seem particularly miffed’. This is incorrect, and in this instance John seems to have mixed-up the MAC with ‘Melbourne Antifascist Info’, who did indeed ‘hope there’s a good explanation for why John Safran went out for drinks with the United Patriots Front last night’.

After recounting the UPF’s trip to the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC) and radio station 3CR (the expedition consisted of Blair Cottrell, Chris Shortis, Neil Erikson, Andrew Wallis and Linden Watson), John attends the Open Day the MAC organised in response: ‘There are more hot anarchists than I expected here. Don’t get me wrong, there are also flabby radicals who wouldn’t be able to throw a Molotov cocktail without breaking into a wheeze, but still’ (p.157). LOL. It’s at this point that Mrs Sneer and Mr Snort enter the story.

After criticising John for his (inadvertent) appearance in the UPF’s promotional stunt, Mr Snort registers his displeasure with John’s article on the Golden Dawn and AFP rally in Brisbane in 2014. It’s at this point that the distinction between ‘structural’ and ‘non-structural’ violence is introduced: Mr Snort says far-right violence is a form of ‘structural violence’ (that is, part of State, corporate and systemic violence), and left-wing violence isn’t. And furthermore, my ‘comedic story’ contributed to this ‘structural violence’ by equating the two. For John, this distinction, and its flaws, comes to encapsulate what he considers a worrying trend, both on the left and among some Muslims (the Sufi’s view on the Charlie Hebdo attack), one which tries and fails to escape the ethical dimensions of discussions on the uses of violence and which, in the end, dismisses various examples of anti-Semitism as being trivial and unworthy of a serious response. Thus Mrs Sneer claims that [t]here’s not meaningful anti-Semitism these days … in the way there’s meaningful Islamophobia, and in practice, this distinction merely becomes a way of separating worth from unworthy victims, the Naughty from the Nice.

Or something.

Mrs Sneer and Mr Snort are then unfavourably compared to the arguably more nuanced approach of ‘Ahmet the Turk’, who attended the open day to express solidarity with the MAC. Beefy and bald, he says he’s new to politics but when he saw ‘these people getting attacked for essentially defending Muslims? I thought, You know what? We’ve got to show them some solidarity. We need to tell them, “You are not alone.” Just like how they’ve told us that we’re not alone.’ Ahmet and the Seven Turks then rock up to the Reclaim/UPF/True Blue Crew rally in Melton (pp.169–180), where inter alia they’re photographed with Senator Lee Rhiannon (or at least, that’s what Ralph Cerminara reckoned LOL) but otherwise try and keep the peace. (As an aside, John writes that the reason the rally was held in Melton was in order to protest the fact that the local council had approved the building of a mosque. This is incorrect. Rather, protesters were angry and upset because they claimed, falsely, that Melton Specialist School had planned to re-locate from Coburns Road to the former site of Victoria University’s Melton campus in Rees Road, Melton South, but was forced to abandon the site to make way for the Al Iman College. See : Anti-Muslim rally reveals a racism both shocking and commonplace, Crikey, November 23, 2015.)

The other anarchist featured in the book is referred to as ‘The CEO’ (p.186): ‘At the rallies he points his finger here and there, muttering into ears, and the little ninjas scuttle off on the mission’. Again, The CEO was not difficult to identify and again, their recollection of their conversations differs from John’s. In any case, insofar as The CEO’s role is understood to be reflective of actual anti-fascist action, organisation and planning, it immediately reminded me of a white nationalist’s account of the TBC rally in Coburg in 2016, in which at one point in the day’s proceedings ‘advance ANTIFA scouts relayed some order via their weird coded street language of whistles and the mob took off at a dead run’. In other words, there are few if any secrets revealed about ‘ANTIFA’ in John’s book.

Finally, the concluding chapters of the book examine Trump’s victory in the US, Pauline Hanson’s return to the Australian Parliament, and the failure of the UPF (as the stillborn ‘Fortitude’ party), the Australian Liberty Alliance and Rise Up Australia Party to make a dent at the 2016 federal election. In the meantime, Musa Cerantonio has been arrested and charged with terrorisms, as has Phill Galea, while Avi Yemini’s attempt to introduce Pauline Hanson and Malcolm ‘Jew World Order’ Roberts to the Jews of Melbourne not unexpectedly fell in a heap. Cory Bernardi has split from the Coalition to form the Conservatives, swallowing Family First and recruiting former ALA candidate Kirralie Smith. Most recently, Bernardi’s neo-reactionary comrade-at-arms George Christensen, having undergone radical weight-loss surgery in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and having previously been a guest speaker at a Reclaim Australia rally and starred on a local neo-Nazi podcast, has now demanded that their New York comrade Mike Peinovich (‘Mike Enoch’) be prevented from entering the country — in order to attend a conference organised by the same crew of nipsters. Neil Erikson has denounced ‘Nazism’ while Shermon Burgess has embraced it. Having been kicked off Facebook, the UPF circus rolls into court again next week (May 23) while the boys in the True Blue Crew have taken some time out from assaulting their partners in order to wave some flags in the CBD on June 25.

La Lucha Continua!

See/hear also : John Safran: going rogue with Australian extremists, Conversations with Richard Fidler, ABC Radio National, April 26, 2017 | John, Fascists, Islamophobes and Jews, Mazel Tov Cocktail, May 11, 2017 | EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: John Safran, Author of Depends What You Mean By Extremist, collage, May 17, 2017.

* ‘The Skull’ appears as a foil for the UPF in Sydney, which is credited with kicking him off the bus the boys organised to take a small crew of patriotik volk to Melbourne for the joint July 18 Reclaim Australia/UPF rally. At the time, ‘The Skull’ had been adopted as the elderly mascot of a short-lived neo-Nazi groupuscule called ‘Squadron 88’. While the incident is claimed as being proof that the UPF didn’t tolerate the participation of neo-Nazis in its activities, leaving aside the fact that its leadership is (or was) neo-Nazi, in reality ‘The Skull’ was not the only neo-Nazi on the bus, as John Lyons and Martin McKenzie-Murray reported at the time.

Lyons (Far-right fringe raises profile by reclaiming immigration debate, The Australian, August 8, 2015):

A bus trip from Sydney to Melbourne highlighted the way neo-Nazi elements are trying to infiltrate the Reclaim Australia movement. Just after 9pm on Friday, July 17, a mixed group of activists — including four neo-Nazis — turned up at Sydney’s Central station to board a bus organised by UPF. But police were waiting for them. They sought out [John] Oliver, the man who had tried to reveal the identity of Fleming, who was carrying a gun. Oliver tells Inquirer he had notified the police firearms registry that he was transporting the gun to Melbourne but, nonetheless, police did not want the gun on that bus.

Oliver says he was taking the gun to Melbourne so over that weekend he could combine sports shooting and the rally. “Maybe I made an error of judgment to think that I could do the two things on the one weekend,” he concedes.

But he insists that those in Reclaim Australia are mainstream Australians opposing extremism. He says he was concerned there were four neo-Nazis on the bus. “The first thing I saw when I sat down was the guy in front of me draw a swastika on the mist on the window,” he says. “Two of the neo-Nazis were kicked off in Yass and two made it to Melbourne.”

One of those forced off the bus was Ross “The Skull” May, who has become the figurehead of Squadron 88, Australia’s newest neo-Nazi group …

McKenzie-Murray (Inside the strange dynamic of Reclaim Australia’s rallies, The Saturday Paper, July 25, 2017):

For the few men who comprise the anti-immigration Australia First Party and the neo-Nazi Squadron 88, the numerals referring to “HH” or “Heil Hitler”, it was an opportunity to augment the United Patriots Front’s rally in Melbourne, itself a supplement to the Reclaim Australia rally organised for the foot of the Victorian parliament. A road trip was planned, a bus rented. The journey would be a merry drive from Sydney to Melbourne, a city they deemed a leftist “stronghold”. They packed a gun but Sydney police – aware of the groups – searched them before they departed and it was confiscated …

So the Sydney group were happy to help storm the fortress of Melbourne. They’d take a coach bus into battle. Nine hours of ribald camaraderie before they smashed some commies. It’d be fun. A real weekend.

Except news got out that one of the boys on the bus was Ross “The Skull” May, one of Australia’s more notorious neo-Nazis, and his presence was suddenly considered detrimental.

It is hard to satirise May. As accords his nickname, he looks like a desiccated corpse re-animated by the dark voodoo of Nazism. In reality he’s a semi-coherent octogenarian with few teeth and a sunken face, who in earlier years wore Nazi uniforms and intimidated political opponents.

According to sources, May was told a short way into the road trip to abandon the crusade and he disembarked just outside Canberra. The departure of one man wasn’t insignificant, given there were only about 30 aboard – about 10 to 20 per cent of the eventual anti-Islam congregation in Melbourne.

Finally, and for what it’s worth, on the evening that the bus departed Sydney I took note of the fact that ‘The Skull’, along with members of S88 and AFP, were on board, as did media. I think that this, rather than the UPF’s putative opposition to ‘Nazism’, is what really explains why poor old Ross was told to get off.

BONUS! EXTREME!

antifa notes (april 12, 2016) : hard times for patriots

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April 4 was the one-year anniversary of the first ‘Reclaim Australia’ rally. The occasion prompted me to write a few lines on my Facebook page (see below). Since then:

• The United Patriots Front (UPF) has engaged in another publicity stunt, unfurling a banner at the local AFL derby in Perth (April 9). See : United Patriots Front evicted from West Coast vs Fremantle game for anti-mosque banner, ABC, April 10, 2016.

• Several members and/or close associates of the UPF — Ralph Cerminara, Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson — have been nominated to appear in the Magistrates Court in Maryborough on Thursday, April 14, to respond to an application for an intervention order by a former associate, Joelle Norris. Whether Cottrell & Co appear or not would seem to depend on several factors. One is whether or not it has any impact on his parole conditions (if any). If so, he will likely appear to contest the order. It’s equally possible that Cottrell hasn’t been served with a notice of the hearing — but far less likely to have failed to notice its appearance on Facebook. Given his history of family violence, Cottrell would presumably be savvy enough to understand that if he fails to attend the hearing it will almost certainly be granted in Norris’s favour, meaning it’s very much in his interests to attend and to contest. Who knows? Hopefully he doesn’t bring an axe or a tomahawk along with him

• Speaking of BFFs, Peter Grace has examined Cottrell’s views on ‘friendship’ here:

• Karen Street, the Tasmanian senatorial candidate for Kim Vuga’s ‘Australia Love or Leave’ party, did the same trick as the UPF at Bellerive Oval on Sunday, April 10. See : Hobart woman Karen Street stands by banner that got her ejected from Bellerive Oval, ABC, April 12, 2016.

• Also on April 10, around 20 or so flagwits belonging to Nick Folkes’ Party for Freedom gathered near the Halal Expo in Sydney. They shouted abusive slogans, waved placards for a while, and then went home.

• Dr Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party has lodged an application with the AEC to use the Eureka flag as its symbol on ballot papers (see : Australia First Party’s use of Eureka flag angers rebels’ descendants in Ballarat, Bridget Judd, ABC, April 12, 2016). The quest to appropriate the symbol is a long-running campaign of Dr Jim’s, dating back to the 1970s, and disputes over its status as an emblem of ‘left’ or ‘right’ has involved a wide range of historical and contemporary actors, from anarchist to neo-Nazi. Certainly, when the AFP joined fellow neo-Nazis from Golden Dawn at a public demonstration in Brisbane in May, 2014, they were rudely reminded that, as far as anti-fascist construction workers are concerned, the flag has no place in their hands. (Note that Jim Perren, one of the AFP dingbats present at the rally and co-author of the neo-Nazi ‘Whitelaw Towers’ blog, later helped arrange the UPF’s visit to Toowoomba in February.)

In any event …

As a mobilising force, Reclaim Australia seems to have more-or-less disappeared up its own bottom: — widely understood as an essentially racist and xenophobic movement, met with sometimes fierce opposition on the streets, riven by internal conflict among the handful of dumbs and mads who constituted its core organisers, and in other ways eclipsed by the emergence (or re-emergence) of various other, largely online anti-Muslim projects, chief among them the UPF, RA appears spent. If so, RA will have become just one more of the already innumerable anti-Muslim propaganda pages FB happily carries and promotes. Of course, this may be a temporary retreat, and RA once again be the broad umbrella under which a liquorice all-sorts of anti-Muslim prejudice takes to the streets. Who knows? Barring some dramatic development, it does seem doubtful it will again stir as many suburban keyboard warriors as it did in 2015.

The UPF, which constituted itself as the vanguard of RA, is also barely a year old, and has obviously undergone some settling of contents during transit. As well as, first, the departure of Shermon Burgess and Neil Erikson from the UPF and, secondly, their denunciation of it as a ‘Nazi’ organisation, most recently Perth flunkey Dennis Huts declared that he was leaving the UPF — as much a man of his word, and his criminal convictions, as his fuehrer, he’s now back — while fellow sandgroper Nic Genovese has also elected to leave. Others to have ostensibly left the group’s inner circle include Kris0 Richardson, Linden Watson and John ‘Farma John’ Wilkinson. In any case, the UPF is now very much a vehicle for the political ambitions of local neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell and his sidekick Thomas Sewell (the football-hating, Hitler-loving pair carried the UPF banner at the Collingwood-Richmond match last week), with the financial support of Christian fundamentalist Chris Shortis, largely moral support from fellow Bible-basher Scott Moerland, and G*d knows what from the crazy, mixed-up Kevin Coombes (aka ‘Elijah Jacobson’ aka ‘Abdullah Islam’; Coombes was first a born-again Christian, then a Muslim, and is now a neo-Nazi sycophant).

Such, at least, is the UPF leadership. Around it has gathered a very small base of (generally quite demented) fanboys, chiefly from Bendigo, Melbourne and Perth, but also including a handful of neo-Nazis and other White supremacists from Queensland and elsewhere; Jim Perren of Whitelaw Towers/Anti-Antifa blog being one. While some have a developed political perspective, an emotional attachment to flags and other nationalist symbols, combined with a visceral hatred of Muslims and other racialised elements, typically eclipses any thoughtful or genuine political commitment. They are thus easily manipulated, lied to, and used — and are. Further, their commitment is just as often fleeting: — their naivete about politics, society and social change leading them to mistakenly believe both that their views are more popular than they are in reality and that acting like a racist dickhead in public is a surefire way to win friends and influence people.

(I should add that the UPF has little support in Sydney partly because its leadership is based in Melbourne but also because Sydney’s far right has already been colonised by Dr Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party on the one hand and Nick Folkes’ Party for Freedom on the other. The UPF has sought counsel from AFP but has not explicitly allied itself to it; Shortis has recently been playing with the PFF in Sydney but was noticeably absent — as was the UPF as a whole — from the PFF’s rare Melbourne excursion last weekend. Sydney is of course also home to Ralph Cerminara, an Australian Defence League activist and serial pest who was previously aligned with Shermon Burgess but is now singing from the UPF hymnbook. Now BFFs, the fact that Cottrell memorably described Cerminara as a ‘cancer’ — and late last year expressed a desire to travel to NSW in order to break the cancer’s jaw for some infraction — gives some insight into the highly unstable nature of the boys’ relationships.)

Of course, in addition to being a ‘street movement’, the UPF also fancies itself as a political party: ‘Fortitude’. Announced with much fanfare late last year in Perth, the UPF embarked upon an east coast tour to promote the fledgling party in February. The tour was not especially successful. Barely 40 or so attended its meeting in Orange, NSW, perhaps twice as many in Toowoomba, QLD (where organisation of the meeting was left in the hands of Catholic relief teacher Liz Carlsen, Perren, and a handful of QLD-based neo-Nazis), and several hundred in Bendigo. The attendance in Bendigo was the largest by far, but still far less than the UPF managed to attract at its peak, which in October last year was somewhere between 500 and 1,000. Further, despite now having over 40,000 likes on FB, it seems as though the UPF/Fortitude is still struggling to obtain the 500+ signatures required in order to register with the AEC (and, crucially, to contest elections under its own name on the ballot). The proximity of the next federal election also means that it’s now almost impossible for the party to do so — even if it did manage to collect the requisite total.

That’s not the only or biggest problem Fortitude faces, for it enters a field already crowded with radical and populist right-wing electoral alternatives, most notably the Australian Liberty Alliance and One Nation. The ALA in particular is a far slicker, well-funded, well-organised and generally palatable option for the anti-Muslim crowd than Fortitude, with its neo-Nazi leadership, criminal history, white nationalism and crude, racist outpourings. It seems possible that even if it does register, Fortitude will likely crash soon after launch, and the boys again be reduced to orchestrating publicity stunts and conducting closely chaperoned (and very small) police rallies. It will then find itself in a position to produce more characters like Phill Galea and Nathan Davidson: — and John Wilkinson’s public exhortation to ‘stop the mosques’ by burning them down will become a much more attractive proposition for its violent fanbase.

BONUS!

In April last year a page called “Slackc-nt” appeared on Facebook. It’s now been publicly disclosed that the author of the page is a man by the name of Andrew Wallis — AKA Drew Smith, Tommo Oro, et. al.. Wallis was also one of the five UPF meatheads — along with Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson, Chris Shortis and Linden Watson — who paid a visit to 3CR Community Radio and the Melbourne Anarchist Club in November last year.

naughtydrew
DrewandRalph