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!

More reflections on ‘solidarity’ after the Coburg protest

[I started writing this post some time ago, put it aside, and have only now got around to finishing it. It’s part of a backlog of numerous such posts LOL.]

Last year, the Arena magazine blog published a post titled ‘Reflecting on Solidarity after the Coburg Protest’, by Andy Blunden and Lynn Beaton. By examining the origins and meaning of the term ‘solidarity’, and then applying it to the events in Coburg on May 28, the authors are able to conclude that a minority which violates solidarity with the majority is called a scab; further, at least by implication, that the minority guilty of violating this principle were those groups of anti-racists who were determined to directly confront the racist groups on the day. Implying that the anti-fascists who confronted members of the True Blue Crew (TBC) and United Patriots Front (UPF) in Coburg on May 28 are ‘scabs’ is an interesting position to take, so I thought I’d examine the authors’ argument a little more closely, and offer a few more reflections on ‘solidarity’.

1)

Leaving aside the authors’ account of the origins of the term ‘solidarity’ — while noting that ‘self-emancipation’ and ‘solidarity’ are the irreducible and inseparable foundations of the workers’ movement — it’s worthwhile looking at the basic facts. They write:

On Saturday 28th May a peaceful rally, ‘Moreland Says No to Racism’, was successfully held outside the Coburg library. The rally was organised many weeks beforehand; sixty local organisations (including the Moreland Council) endorsed the rally, and publicity was widely distributed. Racist groups from outside Moreland made their intention to disrupt the rally known. In response groups of anti-racists determined to directly confront the racist groups. The resulting brawl captured media coverage of the day almost completely. There was minimal communication between the two groups, and no agreement as to plans for managing the events of the day.

To which I’d add the following:

• The ‘Moreland Says No to Racism’ rally was announced some months prior to its occurrence and was endorsed by a variety of groups, including (somewhat controversially) Moreland Council. It was organised by Sue Bolton, a Moreland councillor and member of the Socialist Alliance, and organising began in February. Another councillor, Samantha Ratnam, who was scheduled to speak at the event, withdrew a few days prior, citing concerns over the possibility of violent clashes.
• The ‘True Blue Crew’ (TBC) announced their intention to disrupt the rally in late April. They were soon joined by the ‘United Patriots Front’, ‘Patriots Defence League of Australia’ (PDLA) and others. Their counter-rally was titled ‘Stop The Far Left’.
• I published an event page on Facebook, titled ‘Fascists Out Of Coburg’, less than a week prior to May 28. The blurb read as follows:

On Saturday May 28 a rally has been organised by local councillor Sue Bolton of the ‘Socialist Alliance’. The rally is to take place outside the Coburg Library in the Victoria Street Mall at 11am and to be followed by a short march to Bridges Reserve. Titled ‘Moreland says NO to racism’, the rally will call upon the federal government to:

• Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities – Treaty now
• Let the refugees in – Close Manus and Nauru
and to say
• No to Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, local fascists have decided to organise a counter-rally: in order to express support for mandatory detention and offshore processing, to denounce local Muslims as terrorists, and to attack the ‘far left’. This counter-rally is scheduled to take place at 10.30am at Bridges Reserve, the endpoint of the proposed march. It’s been organised by the ‘True Blue Crew’ (TBC), a small group of right-wing racists from Melton and Bendigo. They’ve been joined by their neo-Nazi friends in the ‘United Patriots Front’ (UPF) and a range of other far right elements can also be expected to attend.

The suburb of Coburg and Moreland generally is home to a diverse range of communities: ethnic, cultural, linguistic, national and religious. Many of these communities are ones that the UPF and Co. would like to see eliminated. The presence of an organised group of neo-Nazis, fascists and racists poses an immediate danger not only to locals but, if left unopposed, will further embolden these groups and individuals to continue to prosecute their divisive, racialised and reactionary politics.

Coburg has a proud history of resisting fascist intrusions into public spaces. It’s important to carry on that tradition and to let local fascists know that they are not welcome. Please attend the rally on Saturday, let others know about the rally, and be advised that a small group of fascists will be in the area, looking for opportunities to attack it and other targets.

Our solidarity is our weapon.

In which context, a few additional points.

First, I’d considered promoting attendance by anti-fascists earlier than this but was eventually convinced by anti-fascist comrades that it would be better to simply encourage others to attend the ‘Moreland Says No to Racism’ rally (ie, there was no need to create another Event page). A week out from the rally, however, I learned that rally organisers had cancelled their plans to march to Bridges Reserve and would do their best to avoid any possibility of confronting the TBC & Co. by marching in the opposite direction. I understood this to mean that a group of fascists would be free to assemble and to march in Coburg. For the reasons outlined in the blurb, I thought this was a Bad thing.

Secondly, my intention in promoting the possibility of driving ‘Fascists Out of Coburg!’ was, first, to try and ensure that a large number of people would attend the rally. The more people who attended, I believed, the less likely the rally would be disrupted or its participants attacked and, further, the more likely it would be possible to confine the fascists to Bridges Reserve and to prevent them from marching anywhere (or doing much of anything). On the day, when it became obvious that the rally was secure (ie, it was not going to be disrupted or attacked by fascists), I along with others elected to leave Coburg Mall — the site of the ‘Moreland Says No to Racism’ rally — to go to Bridges Reserve to attempt to stop the fascists from marching. Initially, a small group managed to do so before police blocked the Mall.

coburgmallpoliceline

Thirdly, since the emergence of Reclaim Australia in early 2015, two major campaigning platforms have emerged in Melbourne: No Room For Racism (NRFR) and Campaign Against Racism & Fascism (CARF). Both promoted the rally and framed it in terms of ‘community self-defence’ from an unwanted fascist intrusion. The exact nature of their planning for the day is obviously best communicated by the group’s themselves, but I’m not sure it’s correct to claim that there was minimal communication between the two groups, and no agreement as to plans for managing the events of the day. Apart from anything else, the Socialist Alliance is a formal participant in CARF, and would therefore seem able to contribute to discussions and planning. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that, whatever plans were made in preparation for May 28, it was far from certain what would actually happen. For example, in light of a police and media campaign imploring others not to attend the rally, it was uncertain how many people would attend either event, whether or not the fascists would actually assemble at Bridges Reserve and, if so, if they would attempt to march — and would police facilitate this? That a decision not to march to Bridges Reserve was made by rally organisers only became apparent on the day, just as the fact that fascists did indeed assemble at the Reserve, were not present at the Mall, and did indeed intend to march.

carfcoburg

Fourthly, it’s important to situate both the attempt to ‘Say No to Racism’ and to ‘Stop the Far Left’ in their context. Thus, the TBC emerged in late 2015/early 2016 in the wake of Reclaim Australia and UPF rallies in Bendigo and Melton. The targeting of Sue Bolton in May 2016 echoed the UPF’s first public demonstration in May 2015, which targeted another socialist councillor, Stephen Jolly. This underscores the fact that — as they’ve reiterated over and over and over again — it is ‘The Left’ which self-described ‘patriots’ and ‘nationalists’ understand to be the chief impediment to their desire to rid Australia of Muslims.

Finally, media coverage did focus upon the clashes which took place between TBC rally-goers and anti-fascists, and this obscured the fact that an ‘anti-racist’ rally was able to be held in Coburg. (See : The anti-racist rally in Coburg the media ignored, Sue Bolton, Green Left Weekly, June 3, 2016.) If the capacity to generate ‘positive’ news stories was compromised by these clashes, and if production of same was the chief aim of the (anti-racist) rally, then on this count it could be considered to be a failure. If, on the other hand, the aim of those participating in the (anti-racist) rally was to both manifest peacefully and to effectively prevent fascists from marching through Coburg, then the day may be considered as being successful. In either case, while an examination of the political economy of the mass media would suggest that, as Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky have written, it does not function in order to produce favourable accounts of political dissent, producing a systematic analysis of media reportage of protest and social struggle in particular is not my aim here. Rather, I’ll attempt to address the question of solidarity, how it’s applied by the authors in the case of May 28 in Coburg, and why I think this approach is problematic.

2)

We have written the post below to highlight the importance of solidarity between activist groups who identify as being on the left, and as fighting right-wing agendas and, in particular, racism.

After elaborating upon the principles of communism (‘self-emancipation of the working class and solidarity’), the authors distinguish between class-conscious working-class activity and what amounts to charity; the philanthropic ‘rescue’ of the working class by elements outside of it. In the context of the Coburg events, the Socialist Alliance (SAll) is cast in the role of the (class-conscious) working class and the ‘groups of anti-racists who were determined to directly confront the racist groups’ are rendered as outside agents, coming to the aid of SAll but, crucially, unwilling to subordinate themselves to its direction. This failure means that the groups which confronted the fascists in Coburg and prevented them from marching may rightly be considered ‘scabs’. Or at least — minus the verbiage about communism, first principles, The First International, cavalry and strikes — that’s the basic lesson meant to be drawn from reading the article.

As I see it, there’s a few problems with this argument.

To begin with, there was more than one ‘stakeholder’ in Coburg on May 28. To put it another way, the presence of a small group of fascists in the suburb posed problems not only for those who gathered together under the umbrella of ‘Moreland Says No To Racism’, but to all locals — especially those who fail to qualify, for whatever reason, to be able to join the ranks of the Übermensch of the TBC, UPF & Co..

Secondly, the authors make reference to different sections of the (working) class exercising autonomy; an autonomy which ceases once they ‘voluntarily submit themselves to a shared discipline’. While it’s not entirely clear how the various ‘sections’ are meant to negotiate this process, it seems fairly certain that, however the term is applied, it was not the case that all those involved in the day’s events undertook this voluntary submission to the authority of the SAll or the (other) organisers of the rally (let alone those who participated in the TBC/UPF rally). Of course, it could be argued that, if the intention of those attending was to express solidarity with SAll, then they were obliged ipso facto to do so in ways that met with the group’s approval and according to whatever criteria they set. In this case, that meant joining the SAll rally, marching to which ever point they were instructed to, and otherwise acting in accordance with the wishes of the rally organisers and its marshals. In other words, as the authors write, they should have obeyed a simple rule: ‘when coming to the aid of another party, do so under their direction’.

But what if, as suggested above, the constituency ‘under attack’ is not singular but plural? That is, what if the threat posed by the fascist contingent was not just to the SAll but to Coburg locals, and to particular groups drawn from this community? In other words, what if, in reference to ‘the concrete conditions in which a group is struggling’, the ‘rescuer’ is not ignorant of the terrain, but inhabits it?

To conclude their analysis, the authors write:

To demonstrate how fundamental solidarity is to the workers’ movement, it should be observed that, alongside equality, solidarity is the guiding principle of majority voting which is the fundamental decision-making process of the workers’ movement. In any working class organisation actions are decided upon by majority vote (the principle of equality) and thereafter every member of the organisation is obliged to offer solidarity to the majority by adhering to the majority decision whether they like it or not. A minority which violates solidarity with the majority is called a scab.

Leaving aside the various forms of decision-making which have been employed by working class organisations, the relationships between such organisations, and their relationship to the workers’ movement (or movements), it’s obviously not the case that those who participated in the events of May 28 belong(ed) to one working class organisation, or took part in a meeting at which a decision was made, via a majority vote, regarding what tactics were to be employed on the day by its membership. Further, the use of the term ‘scab’ in this context seems needlessly inflammatory: given the complaints regarding the actions of those who more directly confronted the fascist rally in Coburg, the pejorative would appear to be directed at these elements, but in reality it was only via their action that a fascist march was prevented from taking place.

See also : Anti-racism: combine the tactics, Riki Lane, Workers’ Liberty, June 8, 2016.

#UnitedPatriotsFront fails to rise in #Melbourne. Again.

destroyupf

Well, that was embarrassing.

For reasons best known to himself, Blair Cottrell, the neo-Nazi fuehrer of the fascist grouplet the ‘United Patriots Front’ (UPF), decided a few days ago that it would be a really good idea to hold a rally at Parliament House and a march from there to the Premier’s office in Treasury Place.

Because the Premier, Daniel Andrews, described them as semi-literate and hateful bigots.

Several hundred anti-fascists and anti-racists made sure that things didn’t go quite according to the Master Race’s silly plan, however, and the 30-40 UPF members and supporters who stupidly thought they could swan about town on Saturday were soon disabused of the notion, being prevented from assembling at either Parliament or Treasury Place and instead being eventually confined to Macarthur Street — before going home with their tails between their legs.

In summary, the UPF’s shit soufflé simply failed to rise.

150

Finally, The Age‘s John Elder claims that the UPF contingent was 150: this is false, as photos and video of the UPF rally demonstrates. Further, there was no ‘clash’; police effectively kept the tiny mob of flagwits well away from anti-fascists. In any case: United Patriots Front and No Room for Racism clash in central Melbourne, The Age, November 28, 2015.

See also : No arrests as ‘patriots’ and anti-racism protesters run rival rallies in Melbourne, 7 News (AAP), November 28, 2015 | #UnitedPatriotsFront sent packing in Richmond (May 31, 2015).

BONUS LULZ!

#Reclaim Australia : November 22, 2015 : Post-match

blahmelton
Above : A protest sign in Melton featuring the neo-Nazi leader of the UPF, Blair Cotrell, and one of his quotes on skool curricula. For more see : Quotations From Chairman Blair Cottrell (July 27, 2015).

‘Reclaim Australia’ (RA) held a series of anti-Muslim rallies across the country on Sunday, November 22. These were the third series of such rallies to have taken place this year, previous rallies having been held on April 4 and July 18/19. This post contains links to reportage on the rallies (and counter-rallies) as well as a few additional notes.

In general, this third round seems to have witnessed slightly smaller numbers of Reclaimers assemble than did previously (Newcastle seems to have been the sole exception). Events in major cities — especially in Melbourne and Sydney — were heavily policed, and police adopted the basic strategy of attempting to keep the two sides widely separated via the use of mobile barriers, regular police and riot squads, and through the use of mounted police (in the cases of Adelaide and Melton). In this task they were largely successful.

Regarding Melton/Melbourne, the conviction and sentencing of Braybrook Reclaimer Phill Galea for weapons offences on Friday, while seemingly prompting the Bendigo-based groupsucule ‘The Resistance Victoria’ to abandon attendance, doesn’t seem to have had much impact on other Reclaimers in Melton, with local far-right networks organised around the ‘Patriots Defence League of Australia’ (PDLA) and racist yoof gang ‘True Blue Crew’ (TBC) being prominent.

I’ll be adding more details to the accounts below as the week progresses.

This account by Rachel Baxendale in The Australian (Reclaim Australia rallies: Two sides go to war in towns, cities, November 23, 2015) provides a general overview of events:

Hundreds of Reclaim Australia protesters and their opponents have held rallies in cities and towns across Australia, with riot police using capsicum spray to subdue violent members of both groups.

Rallies were held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Alice Springs, as well as at Townsville [at which Pauline Hanson spoke] and Cairns in north Queensland, Mildura in northwestern Victoria and Esperance in Western Australia.

At Melton in Melbourne’s outer northwest, there were six ­arrests as hundreds of police, ­including members of the air-wing, mounted branch and dog squad, maintained a barrier ­between about 500 protesters from each group.

A 29-year-old man who punched a police horse was subdued with capsicum spray and charged with animal cruelty, while three men were charged over possession of knives and another two with riotous behaviour.

Victoria Police Acting Commander Alan Byrnes said three members of the public were hurt, but the protest was largely peaceful. “It’s always a bit disappointing to see people turn up with masks,” he said. “You wonder what their motives are for doing that.”

A coalition of socialist, anar­chist and unionist groups calling themselves No Room for Rac­ism chanted “Nazi scum off our streets”, “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land” and “Shame, shame, Victoria Police”.

On the other side of the police line, Australian flag-clad youths screamed “you are a f..kwit” at a Syrian woman addressing the No Room for Racism group.

Melton father Luke Mackie said he had joined the Reclaim Australia protest because he ­opposed an Islamic school being built in the area.

“How can they be calling us Nazis when they’re the ones discriminating against us?” he said. “My kids aren’t Catholic, but they go to a Catholic school. They won’t be allowed to go to this Muslim school.”

In Sydney, police arrested two people as up to 1000 packed parts of Martin Place, with police lines again separating the demonstrations. About 300 people associated with the Refugee Action Coalition and the Socialist Alliance pushed up against police along Macquarie Street. A 36-year-old man was ­arrested for allegedly damaging a memorial while a 16-year-old boy was issued a “move on” direction for allegedly breaching the peace.

Speaking to several hundred anti-Islam protesters, the founder of Reclaim Australia, Catherine Brennan [Liz Shepherd], said recent events in Paris had worried many Australians. “I think there were a lot more people than we were originally ­expecting,” she said. “Because of the Paris attacks — unfortunately.”

Additional Reporting: AAP.

See also : Ugly clashes at anti-Islam rallies in Australia, BBC, November 23, 2015 | Eight charged after Reclaim Australia rallies turn violent, SBS, November 23, 2015 | Anti-Racist Activists Drown out Reclaim Australia Rallies, El Sur TV, November 22, 2015.

Otherwise …

ADELAIDE

Attracting relatively strong crowds on April 4 and July 18, Adelaide saw several hundred join the RA rally on November 22. Those who organised in opposition appear to have been successful in attracting the greatest support. Grace Hill writes:

In Adelaide, Reclaim had to meet at an alternate location to parliament to try and get away from us, a victory from the outset. We marched to meet them, and it was immediately apparent that we outnumbered them. Their planned march was cancelled due to us blocking the entrance to the square. Congratulations to everyone who attended the counter-rally!

See : Police separate opposing protesters at Reclaim Australia rally in Adelaide, Meagan Dillon, The Advertiser, November 23, 2015.

BRISBANE

Sadly for Reclaimers, the Brisbane rally appears to have suffered from some serious PA problems, which have been the subject of many complaints online from the 1-200 or so who rocked up. The presence of several CFMEU flags at the counter-rally irked others.

Among those who did join the Reclaimers was an Adolf Hitler impersonator (!) and a handful of boneheads belonging to tiny neo-Nazi groupscule ‘Right Wing Resistance Australia’, the local branch of the New Zealand organisation. (See : Right Wing Resistance New Zealand.) On July 18, members of RWR, PDLA and other nazis acted as marshals at the event.

A comrade from Brisbane writes:

In total, there were maybe 250 on our side & 100 on theirs. It was scheduled to start @ Emma Miller Place @ noon. I got to the Roma Street station @ 11.30am & was kinda surprised that I had to walk past the RA area to get to where around 100 ‘Say No To Racism’ folk were already pressed against police barriers & in full voice.

Noticing a way to get past police into their area I went in & ripped out anything I could see plugged in before some RA & cops came to stop me. The cops were a wee bit unsure what to do with me as I looked like ‘commie scum’ but needed a walking stick. I made a bit of a fuss & the RA wanted me arrested but cops just took me to our side haha.

Apparently each mob ended up where they did because our mob pushed through initial police lines while they were still setting up. Highlights: their PA not working; seeing Hitler, more than a few boneheads. Swastika & SS tatts got a guernsey & we genuinely made them really fucking mad. Catching a cop tapping his foot to “FUCK OFF NAZI FUCK OFF! FUCK OFF NAZI FUCK OFF!” was great. There was one arrest when a RA supporter tried to get over the police barrier: an exercise in futility as they had a line of cops stopping them & we had PSRT (Public Safety Response Team) riot cops stopping us.

The energy this time was amazing. It was an almost celebratory mood on our side, despite their increase in numbers & increase in bonehead presence.

An hour earlier out at Logan the PDLA held an anti immigration rally, so if they’d been there there may have been even more aggression from them as they seem to have some proper psychos in their ranks. Fuck knows why they did their own thing Sunday but aside from a small group of bikies turning up to the RA rally late I don’t think many from their rally rocked up.

Kim Vuga was at the RA rally but we could hear & see fuck all as when they had speakers they were forced to huddle together in the back of their area to hear anything. PA probs apparently. As I say it was a real party atmosphere on our side.

After a few hours RA organisers started rounding up their mob & they drifted off with police protection as usual (we weren’t able to leave our area) to the sounds of “YOU’LL ALWAYS LOSE IN BRISBANE” & “FUCK OFF NAZI FUCK OFF”. Our mob, when able to leave (about 30 mins after the fash) spontaneously took to the streets & marched to King George Square where people milled around before drifting off. We should’ve done a march through the city or had a street sit-in but hey …

Finally, another highlight was a number of new faces on our side who had attended as a direct result of Paris. It was the most anarchist comrades I’ve seen in one place for a while too and it was nice to catch up with people. Ummm … the cops even seemed to be a bit more receptive to our presence & a bit put out by RA causing them to use up so many resources this time. Their whole demeanour when dealing with us was quite reasonable. Police negotiators didn’t even bother with us either, just went straight to their mob. Anyway that’s about it … aside from some positive talk among anarchists about doing stuff out my way. Yay!

See : The face-tattooed protesters and Adolf Hitler lookalikes whose appearance at a Reclaim Australia rally mocks the group’s claim that it stands for ‘ordinary’ people, Lucy Mae Beers, Daily Mail (Australia), November 23/4, 2015.

CAIRNS

In Cairns, around 300 or so people attended the RA rally, and just a handful were present to express disagreement.

CANBERRA

RalphCAN

A small number of Reclaimers — perhaps 100 or so — attended the Canberra leg of the event. A crowd roughly similar in size counter-protested. Among those who spoke at the RA rally were Shermon Burgess (‘The Great Aussie Patriot’) and close ally Ralph Cerminara (above) of the ‘Australian Defence League’. A month or so prior to his address outside Parliament House, and in the wake of the Parramatta shooting, Cerminara called upon his 5,000 or so followers on Facebook to launch “lone wolf” attacks upon mosques and imams. His Facebook page was subsequently closed, though he remains very active on another page called ‘Left Wings Bigots & Extremists Exposed’, which identifies alleged ‘extremists’ and documents some of his encounters with them. His most recent focus has been upon Black Rose infoshop in Newtown. Joining him in his crusade is Nick Folkes of the ‘Party for Freedom’. Folkes along with Burgess are currently organising and promoting a Cronulla riot re-enactment, scheduled to take place on December 12.

Roxley Foley writes:

Unreported by any news outlet was the amazing rejection of the theatre of hate and division seen across the nation. Amongst the anti racism protesters arrived a delegation of first nations representatives from all corners of the country. The delegation had taken time out of a week long series of meetings at the tent embassy to make a unified denouncement of Reclaim Australia but also to teach the anti racism protesters that hate cannot be beaten by hate. Warriors and healers lit a sacred fire and spoke of the need to confront the wound and legacies of racism to which Reclaim are just a modern symptom and were urged not to fall into the trap of fueling the energy of the opposing side. Unfortunately the initial arrival of howling Reclaimers was too much and anti racism organisers urged the crowd to yell and scream at Reclaim. The resulting spectacle was predictable and depressing. At the peak of sides hurling abuse the warriors made the call to the crowd to turn their backs and walk away back to the circle. The change in energy was almost immediate and without a source to reflect their outrage Reclaimers taunts were pitiful and almost humorous, provoking laughter as we sat in a circle together. Within a very short amount of time Reclaim lost its steam and faces of regret, shame and humiliation amongst their side could be seen. Federal police officers approached us after Reclaim had left, amazed at how we had deescalated the situation and sincerely thanked us. Hate and anger are vicious circles that can only be beaten by compassion, understanding and a little bit of laughter. The true spirit of this land and people shined that day and the media chose to report a story of a nation tearing itself apart, but those who were there experienced something special.

See : Reclaim Australia and Canberra Anti-Racism Network members face-off outside Parliament House, ABC, November 22, 2015 | Protesters face-off in Canberra: Reclaim Australia and ‘anti-racism’ rallies at Parliament House, Christopher Knaus, The Canberra Times, November 22, 2015.

HOBART

AFAHobart2

Around 50 or 60 people attended the RA rally in Hobart with well over twice as many assembling to oppose them.

An anti-fascist in Hobart writes:

On 22 November approximately 40-50 racists, bigots and assorted potatriots assembled in the car park of Franklin Square. (Franklin Square was closed for renovations so they had to make do with the car park.) Anti-racists and anti-fascists had booked Parliament lawn to hold a counter rally in the knowledge that Franklin Square was closed and to disallow the bigots use of the space.

The counter rally attracted between 200-250 people from a broad range of society and had a local band performing. Speeches were given by a local Indigenous representative, a spokesperson from Tasmania Welcomes Diversity and several refugees.

There was about 20 police in attendance and the bigots, headed by Danny Bell (former admin of UPF-Tasmania) were told to disperse from the car park. They then attempted to rally at Parliament lawns but were held back by a line of police. Rally organisers and attendees made the collective decision to continue listening to speeches and let the bigots make themselves look stupid, which they happily obliged in doing.

Yelling ‘paedophile lovers’, ‘traitors’ and ‘flag burning scum’ through a single megaphone, the UPF drew the ire of passers by and laughter from the anti-racism rally. Locals in the area were also overheard voicing their disgust at the sad spectacle.

The UPF continued their rally from behind police lines for another 20 or so minutes before dispersing and heading to one of the few local bars that will have them.

It’s worth noting that their numbers were considerably larger than at their previous event, but that is most likely owing to Reclaim Australia’s involvement and the events in Paris. Reclaim Australia had pulled out of organising the event just days prior, and the UPF had stepped up. UPF involvement caused considerable angst amongst some RA supporters, and the turn-out reflected this.

The decision by counter protesters not to physically or verbally engage with the UPF was a tactical one, and done in the knowledge that the Tasmanian UPF and RA have very little capacity for organisation or ability to have a broad impact. In this circumstance, the tactic worked well, and the UPF showed themselves to be a small group of sad, incoherent fools with very little support in the broader Tasmanian community. That said, we stand firmly in solidarity with all anti-fascist and anti-racist groups who mobilised around Australia on the day and do so with an appreciation that fighting fascism requires a number of tactics across many fronts.

See : Police keep the peace between United Patriot Front, Reclaim Australia and rival protesters in Hobart, Lucy Shannon, ABC, November 23, 2015.

MELBOURNE (MELTON)

meltonupf

Farmer John, from United Patriots [Front], spoke to the crowd while it chanted “No Muslims in Melton”, and threatened more violent action.

“We’re going to burn every mosque down if they build them … Let’s stick it up them,” he said.

~ Anti-Islam, anti-racism protesters clash at violent Melton rallies, Cassie Zervos, Andrew Jefferson, Kara Irving, Herald Sun, November 23, 2015.

The RA rally in Melton — ostensibly called in order to protest the construction of a mosque and an Islamic skool in the area — witnessed a number of scuffles between Reclaimers and counter-protesters, and a handful of arrests. Media scrutiny was intensive and the conflicts occupied center-stage in media reportage, though there were no serious injuries.

It’s widely estimated that around 3-500 people attended both the rally and counter-rally (though some reportage claims up to 1,000 attended the counter-rally, which I think is an over-estimation). A handful of boneheads — including James Lawrence (see below) — attended the event, as did naughty boys Zane Chapman and Corey Hadow.

Speakers at the RA event included John Bolton of Adelaide and ‘Aunty Marj’, the UPF’s ‘Farma john’ and ‘Hugh Pearson’/’John Sobieski’/’Koala732’ — real name: Julian De Ross — while ‘Rise Up Australia Party’ (RUAP) deputy leader and Casey councillor Rosalie Crestani acted as MC. Another RUAP candidate, Jonathan Willy Eli, sang the national anthem at the rally. Reclaim rally ends in racist scuffles, Lachlan Moorhead, Berwick Star, November 24, 2015:

Cr Crestani said she was a member of Reclaim Australia and not a member of the far-right group United Patriots Act [sic], whose members also attended Sunday’s rally, but she said the UPF had a “pure motive”.

“We can all criticise different parts of their approach … but they have a pure motive,” she said.

“It doesn’t come across as pleasant to some, sometimes it’s a cold-hard truth.

“It’s something we have to be careful of but I meet many of these men and women and they have Australia’s best interests at heart.”

The open embrace of neo-Nazis and fascists belonging to the UPF by Christian fundamentalists such as Crestani and RUAP suggests that my initial feeling — that a coalition of fundamentalist Christians and fascists may prove untenable — was possibly mistaken: fear, hatred and contempt for Muslims — combined with both group’s marginal political status — appears able to trump any wider political disagreements.

The presence of one particular group of anti-fascists, ‘Brigada Anti-Fascista’, has caused a good deal of consternation on the part of ‘patriots’/fascists. Here they are spreading love and good cheer:

brigadaaf

An anti-fascist writes:

So this is the Antifascist Fighting Brigade. They were awesome. They had our backs all day and helped protect the triage area from frequent attempts by hatriots to harass and perpetrate violence against medical staff — thank you guys!

It was another tense day but not nearly as tense or threatening as Bendigo. A few people did dumb things like not just getting out of the way of police horses but overall it was pretty sensible. The antifa guys (and one girl — yay!) were pretty focused on just keeping people safe and ejecting the hatriots who tried to get among the counter protesters. There was one incident where the riot squad pepper sprayed their way into our counter protest and dragged out some guy I’ve not seen before … I have no idea what that was about but a dozen people just standing peacefully paid the price and were treated by the legendary angels from Melbourne Street Medics.

There were some funny chants, I had a long exchange with some demented ranter across the line who didn’t take to kindly to being told I was having trouble understanding him ‘cos I don’t speak bogan. He was even more feral when I asked if his Mum knew he was at a bigot protest and he mortally wounded me by calling me a “fairy” (WTF?) when I told him he could tell his Mum when he got home to the basement tonight. It was funny but I guess you had to be there.

So we had some speeches, a bit of chanting at bigots, Ezekiel Ox beat-boxing for everyone and then doing a pretty fair John Farnham rendition (if you’re into that sort of thing). Then we waved goodbye to the hatriots as they packed up and wandered off to a local park to presumably smear themselves in pig fat and eat some non-halal babies or something. Sadly, Sparkles The Unicorn couldn’t come and Anarcho-Panda didn’t feel she was safe enough to attend either, but we blew them away with energy wit, and compassion, so until next time antifascista siempre!

Another account, paying particular attention to the police deployment of chemical weaponry on the counter-protest:

I attended the Melton counter-protest and my observations were that the police were way too eager to deploy cap spray every chance they got, so much so that they inadvertently sprayed their own horses. It was secondary mist but the horses were distressed and it was fucking disgusting. All instances of capsicum spray were due to flagwits infiltrating the counter-protest and becoming violent … The suffering I witnessed at the hands of the police was awful. One woman was capsicum sprayed in the face for no apparent reason and spent around an hour at the triage area in unrelenting agony. There was a man who was affected so badly by the capsicum spray that he was shaking uncontrollably. Another woman was taken away in a wheelchair with a broken foot. There was much disappointment to say the least but we at least succeeded in countering the proto-Nazi nationalist dickheads and we will do it again and again.

At their BBQ picnic — conducted in a local park following a march after the end of the hate rally — some Reclaimers squabbled among themselves (see : Police separate Reclaim Australia protesters during infighting at barbecue, Jason Young, Herald Sun, November 23, 2015).

Finally, upon leaving the ‪counter-protest in ‪‎Melton‬, a number of anti-fascists/anti-racists were escorted by police to a bus station. They were followed and harassed at the station by Reclaimers/local racists. Among those who assembled were bonehead James Lawrence (also prominent at the May 31 ‪UPF anti-socialist demonstration in Richmond) and Damian Kourevellis — friend of Phill Galea and ‘President’ of the ‘Patriots Defence League of Australia’ Eastern Victoria chapter.

Allegedly, one Reclaimer was arrested, but on being called out Damian and James preferred to hide behind riot police.

At Melton station, anti-fascists/anti-racists were greeted by a contingent of fascists emerging from their cars. One sported WP and Nazi tattoos (including swastikas on his shoulder blades). He did a “sieg heil!” salute in response to being called out.

Local racists were happy to roll with the nazis on both occasions (just like the Diggers did in WWII).

See : Melton: A Firsthand Account, angryrecluse, November 24, 2015 | Mixed Agendas and Dumb Fights: Reclaim Australia Held a Classic Protest in Melton, Julian Morgans, VICE, November 23, 2015 | Reclaim Australia, No Room For Racism rallies clash in Melton, ABC, November 22, 2015 | At least seven arrested in anti-Islam and anti-racism protests, 9 News, November 22, 2015 | Arrests as violent clashes break out at Reclaim Australia rallies, Michael Safi, The Guardian, November 22, 2015.

MILDURA

A small RA rally consisting of about 70 people was held in Mildura on Sunday, at which local members of the Australia First Party were prominent. See : Rally takes to streets: Reclaim Australia protesters voice concerns, Toni Brient, November 22, 2015.

NEWCASTLE (CESSNOCK)

nazinewcs

Newcastle witnessed a large contingent of many hundreds of Reclaimers take to the streets, including sometime PDLA leader John Oliver (above, holding megaphone). You may remember John from when he posed as a ‘Concerned Dad’ on the 7 Network’s Sunday program, or perhaps as the man who attempted to bring a gun to the July 18 joint RA/UPF rally in Melbourne — or as I do, which is as the man responsible for establishing a fund to d0x me and who opined that I should be hunted down and beaten and further that I should have my testicles removed and attached to my forehead(!). Oliver spoke alongside a nazi from the Australia First Party.

See : Nathan Paterson, the man behind the Cessnock Reclaim Australia photo, Michael McGowan, The Newcastle Herald, November 24, 2015.

PERTH

The RA rally in Perth was significant if for no other reason than that RA splinter group the ‘United Patriots Front’ had declared it would be travelling to Perth to join with the rally (previously, the focus of the UPF was in Bendigo, where they organised rallies on August 29 and October 10). Among those UPF members who travelled to the event were UPF fuehrer Blair Cottrell, convicted anti-Semite Neil Erikson and Christian fundamentalist Chris Shortis. They were joined by local boy Dennis Huts, now the UPF’s spokesperson in Perth.

Cottrell gave his usual Hitleresque performance, which was very warmly received by the small crowd of around 300 who gathered to see him perform. The UPF also took the opportunity of their Perth visit to announce that they would be forming a political party to contest elections. See : Far-right United Patriots Front to form political party ahead of federal election, Michael Safi, The Guardian, November 24, 2015 | United Patriots Front to start political party called Fortitude, Joseph Young, Rebekah Cavanagh, Herald Sun, November 24, 2015.

An anti-fascist reports:

It was very good. We had a crankin’ PA system. Didn’t quite outnumber them by my count, but looked fairly equal. I went down to the RA/UPF side, and the PA was completely drowning them out, Victoria’s voice thundering out across the oval. Blair Cottrell ended up having to give his Hitleresque speech to the backing of ‘it’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.’ I’m not sure if he meant it, but to me it sounded like he was talking to the beat. Quite a surreal sound, and made his entire rant seem [even more] absurd.

Another anti-fascist writes:

The Reclaimers advertised their rally as starting at 12 noon, at Parliament Place, where all prior rallies had taken place. The began assembling very early, as did the police.

Indeed, one of the most striking things at this event was the extensive police presence. They cordoned off not just the park where RA assembled, but the adjoining street was closed off to traffic – and to all of us passing through. With the exception of those attending the RA rally. Effectively (and unsurprisingly), the cops shielded and protected the Reclaimers.

By noon, their presence had grown to about 400, as people continued to arrive. I would estimate their crowd at 4-500.

We assembled on the hill overlooking the park – about 200 of us. This is Perth, and it is unlikely that we will ever outnumber the RA. But we were loud and better-looking.

Their rally opened with the national anthem, and of course, no welcome to country (unlike us). Blair spoke several times, and on one occasion (the only one I wished I had earplugs) read his ‘poetry’. His followers had prominent presence with several UPF flags flying, AND a ‘Blair Cottrell’ flag that has now become a bit of a joke in the anti-RA crowd …

See : Perth’s Anti-Islam Protest Was Really Weird, Royce Kurmelovs, VICE, November 23, 2015 | Large police presence at Reclaim Australia rally near Perth Parliament, Briana Shepherd, ABC, November 22, 2015 | Heavy police presence at Reclaim Australia rally at Parliament House in Perth, Brendan Foster, WA Today, November 22, 2015 | Hundreds at WA Reclaim Australia rally, SKY News (AAP), November 22, 2015.

SYDNEY

ASENSyd

The Sydney rally attracted relatively fewer participants than previously, and appears to have been easily outnumbered by opponents. The event ended in some controversy, however, one account of which appears in this ‘Open letter to the organising committee of [the] Sydney rally against Reclaim Australia on November 22’.

COMMENTARY

On Sunday, Radio National’s ‘Background Briefing’ broadcast an episode on the anti-Muslim movement in Australia. Anti-Muslim extremists: how far will they go? by Christine El-Khoury (ABC’s The Drum, November 24, 2015) further reflects on the development of the movement and argues that it should be viewed with some concern. Max Chalmers in New Matilda writes Comic And Terrifying In Equal Measure: What We Learned From The Reclaim Australia Rallies, November 23, 2015. Previously, Jeff Sparrow wrote Members Of The Far Right Are Threatening Political Violence. Whatever Happened To Those Anti-Terror Laws? (New Matilda, November 21, 2015). See also : Reclaim Australia: Government accused of failing to condemn violence from anti-Islam extremists, Stephanie Anderson, ABC, November 23, 2015 | Melbourne rally violence: Is the worst yet to come?, news.com.au, November 24, 2015.

See also : Believe in Bendigo : Businesswoman Margot Spalding leads campaign to fight anti-mosque ‘hate’, Janine Cohen, Australian Story (ABC), November 23, 2015.

antifa notes (august 2, 2015)

G’day Aussie patriots how ya goin’?

• No Room For Racism have organised a SPEAK OUT @ City Square Melbourne for Friday, August 8 (5.30-7pm):

With racist and neo-Nazi groups like Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front rallying openly on our streets, it’s time for anti-racists to unite and speak out against rising racism and Islamophobia.

Come along and hear from different communities about how racism is used as a tool to divide us and how we can unite to stop the growth of far-right movements in Australia.

This is a peaceful speak out organised by the #NoRoomForRacism campaign. All anti-racists are welcome.

• The fascist groupuscule the ‘United Patriots Front’ (UPF) claims to have had an application to hold an assembly in Cronulla denied by local authorities. This has been interpreted by Shermon Burgess (‘The Great Aussie Patriot’) as meaning that Muslims have taken over the Shire. See also : Reclaim Australia rallies ‘fuel racial tensions to Cronulla riot levels’, The Guardian, Shalailah Medhora, July 20, 2015.

• UPF leader Neil ‘Nazi Boy’ Erikson is in the news again, this time for allegedly conspiring to ‘manually remove’ Socialist Party councillor Stephen Jolly in Richmond (the site of the UPF’s dismal debut in May). See : Police investigate kill threats against Councillor Stephen Jolly, Bianca Hall, The Age, August 2, 2015.
• Erikson denies authorship of the messages on Facebook referred to in Hall’s article. The messages in question seem to have originally appeared on the Facebook page Team Idiot’s – Stupid Things Bigots Say and are republished below:

neilthreat1
neilthreat2
neilthreat3
neilthreat4
neilthreat5
neilthreat6
Verification of the above would presumably require a statement to police by whoever was on the other end of the conversation.

• Rather pathetically, Erikson similarly denied authorship of the video he made celebrating the stabbing death of 16yo anti-fascist Carlos Javier Palomino in Madrid in late 2007. See : ‘Anti-Islamist’ rally organiser shown laughing at death footage, James Dowling, Herald Sun, July 16, 2015. In 2009, the neo-Nazi killer, Josué Estébanez, was sentenced to 26 years jail for murder and attempted murder.

• Since its formation in May as a split from Reclaim Australia, the UPF has been consistently stating that ‘smashing the left’ (in Melbourne, but also elsewhere) has been a key goal and a necessary step towards their longer-term goal of ridding Australia of Muslims. Its failure to smash the left ‘on the streets’ has seemingly resulted in the employment of increasingly aggressive (and quite demented) rhetoric online. The actions of police on July 18 in Melbourne — specifically, the widespread deployment of capsicum spray — was met with undisguised glee by the UPF, but praise for VicPol seems to have terminated with news of the confiscation of a firearm from one patriot by NSW police before he hopped on board the hate bus.
• The UPF has determined that Jolly, along with fellow SP members Anthony Main and Mel Gregson, is the mastermind behind all ‘antifa’ activity in Melbourne; by the same token, Erikson has alleged that deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek is bankrolling opposition to Reclaim Australia, so it’s sometimes difficult to determine quite how serious or stoopid Erikson & Co actually are, whether they believe the propaganda they produce or they’re simply feeding the chooks who follow the UPF.
• In the days immediately following July 18, Burgess posted a video in which he confessed to assault and named fellow ‘patriot’ Liz Carlsen as also having committed assault. To date, I don’t believe the alleged incident has received any media attention.

• The ‘Australian Liberty Alliance’ (ALA) registered with the AEC on July 29, and Geert Wilders is scheduled to tour Down Under in October in order to launch the Alliance.
• The ALA is the bRaneschild of ‘The Q Society’.
• Erikson was present at a tiny counter-counter-protest at the Wilders appearance at La Mirage Receptions in Somerton in Melbourne in February 2013.

• Today Kim ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ Vuga attended a function in Nick Folkes’ backyard. Folkes is the leader of the Party for Freedom, established as a split from the ‘Australian Protectionist Party’ after Folkes and fellow Sydney branch member Darrin Hodges organised a public rally in Sydney in June 2012 demanding that the Australian government ‘Torpedo the Boats!’ carrying asylum seekers to the northern shores of the country.
vuga
• The Party for Freedom is explicitly modelled on Wilders’ PVV but has been effectively snubbed by Wilders in favour of the (allegedly) far more competent Q Society. See also : What’s behind the Australian Liberty Alliance?, Patrick J. Byrne, News Weekly, February 14, 2015.