Anti-racist activists counter Reclaim Australia rallies

Issue 

Anti-racist protesters once again easily out-numbered the racist and Islamophobic Reclaim Australia at rallies around Australia on November 22.

MELBOURNE

The biggest rally was in the outer suburb of Melton, about 35 kilometres west of Melbourne, where anti-Islam groups have been campaigning against the construction of an Islamic school and mosque.

As in previous Reclaim Australia rallies in Melbourne, a few hundred anti-Islam demonstrators were outnumbered by about 1000 anti-racists. Pro-refugee protests in Melbourne this year have numbered in the thousands.

Up to 500 police were at the rally, including about 50 in riot gear. Pepper spray appears to only have been used against the anti-racists. Six people were arrested — one for animal cruelty accused of punching a police horse, two for riotous behaviour and three for weapons offences.

Last week a member of the United Patriot Front was sentenced to one month in jail after pleading guilty to possessing five Tasers.

Spokesperson for Reclaim Australia John Bolton, admitted to Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun that many of the racist ringleaders, who wore homemade Australia flag masks and caps to hide their identity, were “thugs”.

Geelong Trades Hall Secretary Tim Gooden told the rally: "Racism helps the bosses. I've seen a lot of division in my time. Bosses play people against each other. It's a weapon against the working class to keep us separated.

“They are whipping up hate against refugees, First Nations and Muslims. In my time, I've also seen my union the CFMEU support the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. We need to stand together to stop the ideology of hate."

Geelong Trades Hall Secretary Tim Gooden. Photo: Ali Bakhtiarvandi.

Kerry Davies from the Council of Single Mothers said: "None of these people at Reclaim Australia are working to build support for single parents. They are only trying to build division and hate. The oppression of women is a global issue.

“Women and children are being murdered at the rate of two a week. Racism keeps us all down. It is hate and it puts us all in danger."

Jafri, who campaigns against racism every week in Melbourne said: "Let's also not forget what Martin Luther King said. People must not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. So it's a shame we still have some racism happening today in our society and other parts of the world.

“It's upon us to stop this racism. The successful fight against apartheid in South Africa shows racism can be beaten."

Photos: Ali Bakhtiarvandi

BRISBANE

In Emma Miller Place, just outside the Brisbane CBD, about 200 Reclaim Australia supporters were outnumbered by more than 350 anti-racists.

The badly-organised Reclaim Australia rally was unable to find a functioning microphone or megaphone to tell its stories of "fighting extreme Islam". But the anti-racist rally of unionists, socialists, the LGBTI community, environmentalists and "those just sick of racists and fascists speaking for our country", were better organised.

After reminding the crowd that John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes had insisted that Reclaim stop appropriating their music, the counter rally began playing Farnham's “You're the Voice” at full volume.

Unable to be heard, the racists abandoned their protest as pro-diversity groups chanted "Nazi scum off our streets" and "Muslims are welcome, racists are not" across metal dividing barriers with up to 30 police stationed in-between.

SYDNEY

In Sydney the racists were easily outnumbered by progressive counter-protesters in Martin Place. Up to 350 anti-racist protesters, including socialists and anarchists, carried signs reading, “Racism is un-Australian,” and, “After Paris: no divide and rule, fight racism, welcome refugees”. Only about 50 Reclaim Australia protesters bothered to turn up.

At least 200 police, including mounted police, were out in force well before either rally began. It was noticeable that the police faced the crowd of anti-racists as if they would cause trouble but stood with their backs to the racists, protecting them.

Aboriginal activist Ken Canning headed a list of speakers who also included Ahmed Aboushabana from the Muslim community, construction union (CFMEU) NSW President Rita Mallia and firefighters' union (FBEU) NSW Secretary Jim Casey.

After the rally police forcibly blocked a group of protesters from marching and then kettled the crowd in Martin Place, preventing those who wanted to leave from doing so.

Photos: Peter Boyle.

PERTH

In Perth soaring temperatures failed to deter hundreds of demonstrators from gathering near Parliament House for a Reclaim Australia protest and counter-rally.

There was a strong police presence, including mounted police, but there was no violence as people on both sides tried to drown each other out with music and chants.

The Reclaim Australia movement blasted Australian music, while at the top of the hill the United Against Bigotry and Racism group chanted "Nazi scum, off our streets" and "Always was, always will be Aboriginal land".

Anti-racism campaigner Miranda Wood told AAP the crowd wanted to show support for Muslims living in Australia.

"I think it's a matter of being on the right side of history and we can see that we have all kinds of people who have turned out today to say welcome to Muslims (and) that they won't stand for racism," she said.

"They can see the writing's on the wall and that we won't stand for Muslims being attacked in the streets; Muslims being vilified; Muslims being blamed for tragic events on the other side of the world.

"I say to Reclaim Australia, to take your racism elsewhere."

CANBERRA

In Canberra, about 100 anti-racism protesters traded fiery exchanges with a smaller crowd of Reclaim Australia supporters in front of Parliament House.

There were significant numbers of police at the protest site and areas for the rally and counter-rally were separated by temporary barriers.

Canberra Anti-Racism Network organiser Dean Maloney told the Canberra Times it was vital that the community band together to show racism was unacceptable.

"It's important that Muslims, Indigenous people, refugees, the people who often bear the brunt of racism, are shown that they don't stand alone," he said.

"There are people who support them and won't let bigoted views go unchallenged."

Reclaim Australia's so-called "great Australian patriot" Shermon Burgess, attacked the counter-rally, saying: "These people may not be terrorists with guns and bombs, but they are social terrorists."

He gave support to has-been racist Pauline Hanson and claimed the movement would soon be in a position of power in government.

John Passant from Solidarity told protesters that it was fantastic that so many had turned up to take a stand against the racism of Reclaim and the racism of the federal government.

"We need to stand together against the new current of politics that is developing in Australia," he said, "a politics that sees race as a way of bettering themselves ... of getting themselves noticed."

ADELAIDE

About 50 racists gathered outside the Adelaide Festival Centre, while 150 counter protesters gathered on the steps of Parliament House.

About 60 police and 10 mounted police surrounded the rally at Festival Plaza, off King William St, as anti-racism protesters marched from the Parliament House to oppose Reclaim Australia. There were a handful of police monitoring the counter-protest, but Reclaim Australia were surrounded by a very large human barrier of police.

On the other side of the police barrier, anti-racism protesters shouted chants such as: “Muslims are welcome, racists are not” and held signs that read: “Australia is not yours to reclaim” and “No crime to seek asylum”.

The group was vocal in delivering their message: Australians need to stand together and not be divided in order to beat terrorism.

NEWCASTLE

In Cessnock, near Newcastle about 700 people marched to Civic Park chanting “no more mosques” as part of a Reclaim Australia rally, where they listened to arguments against a proposed mosque development.

Meanwhile, about 150 people gathered in the Cessnock Performing Arts Centre car park, only a few hundred metres away, in a counter protest.

A speaker at the Reclaim Australia rally who identified himself as a Christian Democratic Party representative told the crowd: “We need to stop building mosques, but if it keeps going maybe we need to push a few over and bulldoze them.”

Rally Against Racism spokesperson Erin Killion said the counter-protesters wanted to promote the idea that people had nothing to fear from the Muslim community.

“There are rumours going around that the mosque is going to be dangerous for this area and I think it's important that people actually get to know Muslims, because there is nothing to fear,” she said.

“Groups like Reclaim Australia are building these straw men [arguments] that Australian culture is under threat and we're being overrun. None of those things are coming into being.

“They are using it to try to build a far right political movement in this country and we know that when those groups build, so do attacks and racism.”

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