Blink and you might have missed it, but Saturday, October 6 was ‘International Freedom of Speech Day’, with ‘International’ having the operative meaning of ‘Wiley Park in Sydney and Docklands in Melbourne’ and ‘Freedom of Speech’ ‘whining about Facebook and the Racial & Religious Tolerance Act‘.
Organised by Adelaide-based law-talking guy John Bolton, two months of solid promotion on social media yielded … well, not a lot, really. Thus, maybe 30 or so patriotik Volk joined John at Wiley Park, where they listened to him whine alongside his neo-Nazi client Blair Cottrell and er, Nick Folkes (ex-Party for Freedom). Included in the audience was ‘Mark McDonald’/’Tyler Winchester’, formerly of ‘Squadron 88’ but now of the Sydney franchise of ‘The Lads Society’, NSW True Blue Crew lvl boss ‘Mitch(ell) van Dam’, and various members of both grouplets (Dwayne Bullen, Max Towns), former Reclaimers and Peanuts — even Rino ‘Bluebeard’ Grgurovic put in an appearance.
In Melbourne, the very smol rally was organised, appropriately enough, by ‘Tiny’ Avi Yemini. On stage he was joined by Fraser ‘Final Solution’ Anning and ‘Australian Liberty Alliance’ boss and wealthy gadabout, the Perth-based Debbie Robinson. As usual, Daniel Jones and George Jameson played dress-ups, some other pretend ‘Soldiers’ (of Odin) were present, but most in the crowd of perhaps 50 seemed to be drawn from Tiny’s facebook klvt and/or were elderly racists. The only interesting moment, of course, was when a deadset legend exercised his Freeze Peach by asking Anning if the allegation that he’s a ‘massive f*cking c*nt’ is correct, to which the whiny manbabies naturally responded by screaming for the police to silence Our Hero.
As for Bolton, he spoke at the Reclaim Australia rally in Adelaide in November 2015, a PEGIDA rally in Canberra in February 2016, an anti-refugee protest in Eltham in November 2016 and the final. ever. Reclaim rally in Sydney in January 2017. After being dropped by the ALA, Bolton ran as an Independent for the seat of Wakefield at the 2016 federal election and placed 6th of 7 candidates with 2,728 votes (2.84%).
More recently, Bolton joined a handful of Peanuts in Sydney in September last year to proclaim ‘Straight Lives Matter’ and in June this year expressed his support for poor old Sonia Kruger (see : How An Australian Television Host Became The Latest Free Speech Hero Of The Far-Right, Brad Esposito & Lane Sainty, Buzzfeed, June 25, 2018). But while Bolton obviously enjoys the company of racists and fascists, his chief point of interest is, I suppose, his legal work on behalf of Melbourne-based neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell: apparently, Bolton is mos def gonna win in the High Court, and have Cottrell’s criminal conviction for arsondrug traffickinginciting hatred for Muslims struck out because the Racial & Religious Tolerance Act‘ is like, totes un-Constitutional.
3rd Annual International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners on July 25, 2017
July 25, 2017 is the third ‘International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners’. NYC Antifa:
As the third annual July 25th International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners approaches, we find ourselves fighting the hydra of fascism and far-right ideology. While its many heads have distinct looks in different parts of the world, this beast spews the same venomous poison of nationalism and bigotry everywhere. It demonizes refugees and immigrants, stokes hatred for Muslims, and attacks LGBTQ and other oppressed groups who are fighting for liberation and their very lives.
The July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners originated in 2014 as the Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman, an Australian man serving a 20-year sentence in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men being attacked by fascist football hooligans. Whether acting as individuals or as part of larger organized demonstrations, this is the kind of bravery and solidarity which defines antifascist actions against the forces of hate. Since the day of solidarity last year, we have seen this spirit all over the world—in Indonesia, Czech Republic, Brazil, Poland, England, Greece, the United States, France, Syria, Australia, Japan and all points in between.
Read more in English here; you can read translations of the call out im Deutschen, ελληνικά, français, Bahasa Indonesia and other languages here.
The Antifascists (documentary film)
The Antifascists is a new Swedish/Greek documentary ‘that takes us behind the masks of the militant groups called antifascists’.
It will hopefully be screening in Australia later in the year.
The Anti-Antifascists (lol)
Or: Bring all the crew mate it’s gonna be YUGE. Possibly the biggest Sydney has seen for this type of protest march.
On Saturday, July 1, Nick Folkes and the ‘Party for Freedom’ held a small rally in Newtown in order to whinge about ‘anti-fascists’. About 20-30 or so individuals attended the event, which consisted of marching the brief distance from Newtown railway station (chanting the usual inanities), then gathering outside Sergio Redegalli’s former studio (for more chanting), then standing around for an hour as puzzled locals went about their business. Peter Grace:
Apart from All The Usual Suspects, among those who bothered to rock up was Mark McDonald, the former leader of the short-lived neo-Nazi groupuscule ‘Squadron 88’. His presence was more welcome on Saturday than it was in July 2015, when he and geriatric bonehead Ross ‘The Skull’ May were kicked off the ‘patriot’ bus from Sydney to Melbourne for being ‘Nazis’. Among those who turned on the pair was Shermon ‘The Great Aussie Patriot’ Burgess who, since being kicked off Facebook, has now embraced, inter alia, Adolf Hitler and Flat Earthism. Still, the neo-Nazi pinhead was also presumably heartened by the PFF’s recent adoption of the ‘White GeNOcide’ meme, ably embodied by Folkes’ own marriage to an Asian woman (with whom he apparently has children) and the mixed-up confusion that is his young sidekick Toby Cook (below), whose commitment to White nationalism is unimpeded by his own non-European ancestry.
In the last two weeks, Alt-Right trolls have attempted to replay the events in Houston, Texas in June, where using over the top threats from fake antifa groups on social media, they galvanized a ‘counter-protest’ from the militia movement.
Moreover, it turned out that the people behind the trolling where also raking in thousands of dollars off of crowdfunding for the ‘counter-demonstration’ which drew several hundred and led to infighting between militia members and neo-Nazis. Seems like the Right has a business plan! Make a fake antifa group, make over the top threats, and then crowd fund money off of people that want to protest it.
This time around, trolls using the page ‘Harrisburg Antifa’ alleged that antifascists would burn flags and urinate on the graves of Confederate soldiers. These outright lies were then picked up by the ‘journalists’ at Fox News and distributed as actual truth. This connection between Alt-Right trolls and Fox News is not new; just last week Fox reprinted an article written by a member of the Alt-Right who wrote a hit piece about IGD at HeatSt.com.
Interestingly enough however, in the lead up to the protest, Navy Jack, a mover and shaker within the far-Right Oath Keeper militia, called out the event as total make-believe in a tweet (see image on the top-right), which has since been deleted. Navy Jack also included the photos of the two people he believed were behind the fake event and called it #FakeNews.
Other members of the far-Right, such as Joe Biggs, who recently left InfoWars because of the #Pizzagate conspiracy, have stated publicly that the rise of such fake antifa accounts have hurt the far-Right who continues to take them seriously.
In Melbourne on the weekend a dozen or so members of private security company Asolate Security, in conjunction with various self-described ‘patriots’ from the Soldiers of Odin and a handful of other groupuscules, conducted brief forays into Southbank, apparently in order to stop African yoof from stealing Moomba showbags. Or something. The meatheads are active online as ‘A26A’.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
* ‘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.
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 …
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.
1) The True Blue Crew (TBC) is holding another anti-Muslim rally in Melton on Sunday, August 28. (Their last rally took place in Melbourne on June 26.) They’ll be joined by the United Patriots Front (UPF) and presumably assorted other rightists (including Ralph Cerminara, a man Blair Cottrell, fuehrer of the UPF, has memorably described as a ‘cancer’). Amusingly, the TBC have co-opted Eric Bogle‘s ‘And the Band Played Walzing Matilda’ in order to promote their hate rally.
2) Not joining the TBC on August 28 will be Phill Galea. Galea’s arrest and prosecution for ‘terrorism’ has generated a lot of commentary, obviously, with much of it centred upon establishing who Galea is and what role he played in the far right movement. As noted previously, Galea did attend an abortive anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rally back in April 2010, but has otherwise been an enthusiastic participant in a range of different groups (Australian Defence League/ADL, Reclaim Australia, Patriots Defence League of Australia/PDLA, TBC, UPF et. al.) and patriotik events. The reaction of his (former) friends to news of Galea’s arrest is captured by Peter Grace in one of his numerous videos documenting their antics:
See also : ASIO monitoring of right-wing extremists uncovered alleged plan to attack radical left, Nick McKenzie, Michael Bachelard, The Age, August 13, 2016. Note that the article contains a correction, viz, ‘An earlier version of this story quoted a person purporting to be Ralph Cerminara. Fairfax now accepts this was not Mr Cerminara, and that Mr Cerminara does not subscribe to the beliefs expressed. Fairfax apologises for the error.’ Speaking of Cerminara …
3) Shermon Burgess (‘The Great Aussie Patriot’) recently announced the launch of yet another Facebook project: Australian Settlers Rebellion (ARSE). At this stage it consists of Burgess, Neil Erikson, UPF leader (?) Scott Moerland and (possibly) Cerminara. ARSE takes the place of a series of Facebook projects established by Burgess and Erikson since they left the UPF and denounced the group as ‘Nazis’. Other stillborn projects include Generation Identity Australia (now known as Australians Resistance Network), Aussie Patriot Army (deceased) and United Patriots Front – Originals (defunct).
The departure of Burgess and Erikson from the UPF, and their declaration that the ‘patriots’ they’d been working closely with for more than six months were — shock! horror! — actually neo-Nazis, has naturally produced some bad blood. (This is in addition to the fact that Erikson now has very few allies among the far right in Melbourne.) A few days ago, this blood appears to have boiled up in the person of UPF lackey Linden Watson. Peter Grace again:
4) The UPF appears to have lost the support of Chris ‘The United Nations is attempting install the Pope as leader of a new world government’ Shortis, who has now openly embraced ‘national socialism’ and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and gravitated towards the Australia First Party. ‘Last Thursday’, Blair Cottrell’s sidekick Thomas Sewell expressed his support for fascism in a post which was soon deleted from the UPF page.
Otherwise, The Boys continue to hint at the fact that The Jew is responsible for All The (Bad) Things; a perspective expressed frankly in their internal discussions alongside, crucially, a recognition of the fact that being honest about their beliefs risks losing the support of that fraction of ‘patriots’ not down with neo-Nazism. It may also be read as evidence of the ideological incoherence of the milieu, and the fact that broadly speaking, it comprises anti-Semites, white nationalists, national socialists and fascists as well as Islamophobes: whether one aspect or the other is emphasised is largely a tactical question. The case of UPF leader Kriso Richardson (United Australian Front: UAF) underlines this fact.
5) The UAF was established in late 2014, ie, prior to the emergence of both Reclaim Australia and the UPF. While men wearing UAF merch made their debut at the anti-leftist rally in Richmond in May, 2015, it is now known as Order 15/UAF, and is open about its commitment to white nationalist and fascist doctrines.
6) The UPF and the TBC held a small counter-rally in Perth on August 13, and again on July 30, The Boys on both these occasions expressing support for The Mother Potato, Pauline Hanson. In Melbourne on July 16, the UPF attempted to mount a very small counter-protest. Wearing masks and holding a ‘Blue Lives Matter’, the boys (around 10–15 in total) were told to shoo by police — and did. Just a handful of neo-Nazis stuck around to heckle the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest later in the day, which attracted thousands.
7) Nick Folkes and his micro-Party for Freedom staged a successful media stunt on the weekend, disrupting a church service in Gosford. The event succeeded in Folkes being invited to address radio and television audiences — even if it also earned him a rebuke from Andrew Bolt and The Mother Potato herself expressed qualms. In any case, this is not the first time racist meatheads have targeted churches for their commitment to human rights, the PFF’s antics recalling an earlier period in which right-wing radicals harassed ‘progressive’ church-goers. Dorothy McRae-McMahon:
In the autumn of 1986, six men marched into the Uniting Church in Pitt Street during my morning service. They marched in fast, carrying the Eureka flag. They came down the centre aisle, put a pamphlet on the lectern and handed out various leaflets before marching out again.
That was the beginning. From that day on National Action launched a sustained campaign of harassment against me because of my involvement in the anti-apartheid movement and other anti-racism activities. It went on for two years.
Initially, most of the harassment was aimed at frightening me and trying to bring down my career. They sent out pamphlets not just to my parish but around many of the parishes of the Uniting Church, claiming some pretty amazing things about my sex life. It would have been exciting indeed if I’d been doing the things they said I was doing! One particularly unpleasant pamphlet they put together was called ‘Sodomy and Gonorrhoea in the Uniting Church’. It was a classic Nazi document, mainly homophobic and racist, and it was clearly an attempt to end my ministry.
The church authorities firmly supported me and there came a time when it would have been very difficult if they hadn’t done so. The parishioners at the Pitt Street church were also supportive to a person. Members of National Action had clearly been going through the church’s rubbish bins for some time and they’d got hold of discarded documents including part of our mailing list. They started phoning up some of our people and saying: ‘We know where you live and we know the names of your children and if you don’t leave the Pitt Street church we’ll come and do something to your children’. We lost nobody. In fact we gained people in that period.
By 1986, the Uniting Church in Pitt Street had clearly identified itself with the anti-apartheid cause. Archbishop Desmond Tutu had spoken there on two momentous occasions. It’s a church that seats 2000 people and we’d never seen it full like it was on both those days. It was a great thing for us to facilitate the gathering of so many anti-apartheid activists. We also had an anti-racist graffiti team which went around the city painting over slogans that said things like ‘Kill an Asian a day’. I was the only church employee in the regular team that went out, the rest were all parishioners from the Pitt Street church. On one occasion we approached the railway authorities asking them to wipe out slogans in the Stanmore railway tunnel. Six weeks went by without a response, so we went and did it ourselves. We got caught and were arrested for being on railway property.
I suspect the publicity we got after the graffiti incident was a triggering point for National Action’s campaign. Apart from the pamphlets there was nuisance-type harassment. Week after week they poured sump oil and printing toner across the front steps of the church. We sometimes had to pay for it to be cleaned up because it would soak into the sandstone. Their campaign gradually escalated until it became quite frightening. I was living alone at the time and they’d phone me in the middle of the night and make death threats and say various other horrible things. Bags of faeces and vomit were thrown all over the front steps of my house and stuffed in the letter box or in the windows. One time they graffitied my front fence. If I left the phone off the hook or later when I got a silent number they would come around and knock on my door in the middle of the night.
I was frightened during these incidents but I also felt supported by many people around me, not only in the church but outside as well. I have to say my spirituality sustained me too. They never gained power over me, nor any of us in the parish. After they’d been around I could always ring up somebody from the parish. No matter what time of the night it was, even at three o’clock in the morning, somebody would always hop in their car and come around to clean up the mess, sit down, have a cup of coffee and debrief me.
We eventually decided to go public about National Action’s campaign. We’d been reluctant to do so because we didn’t want to give them any publicity. But then it went on and on and they’d been harassing the parish for some eight months, we thought: ‘Well the Australian community has a right to know what’s going on in its midst.’ We were also getting very angry by then.
We took the initiative and wrote an open letter to the Sydney Morning Herald. The media took an immediate interest. We discovered lots of other people were being attacked by racist groups. Often they were individuals who had no support group or members of the Jewish community. Or people who worked for the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission, even some journalists. We then formed a loose-knit anti-racism coalition and started lobbying for government and police action.
We took a deputation to the NSW Police Minister. He was outrageous. He was absolutely outrageous. He told us that things like a few bricks through windows were par for the course in a diverse sort of community where people have different opinions. We came out of the meeting stunned by his attitude. We didn’t know what to do next because we really needed his support. What was even more surprising was that his press secretary and advisers later put out a press release which said the Minister was really troubled by the racist attacks and they had to stop. That was very different from what he said to us. In the end the Sydney Morning Herald ran a column which gave our account of that meeting with him.
In all this, more and more anti-racism groups came together in support of each other. We had very moving experiences. One time people gathered on the front steps of the Pitt Street church with placards saying ‘If the police won’t defend this church – we will’. They were people who wouldn’t normally come near a church …
• 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:
• 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.
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.