Canberra anti-racists easily outnumber racists

July 18, 2015
Roxley Foley from Canberra’s Aboriginal tent embassy holds a sign during the march in Canberra on July 19. Photo: Elise Scott

Today someone tried to stab me with an Australian flag.Yet in spite, or maybe because, of that, I am glad I made it to the Canberra anti-racist rally on July 19.

When overtly racist right-wing forces come out onto the streets, we need to show that there are many more of us who are against that kind of hatred.

I was in the middle of a large crowd opposing racism and xenophobia and opposite a small one waving red, white and blue flags and carrying placards that said “Islam is a hate group, not a religion”. I think we can tell from that who is the hate group.

There were about 150 anti-racists and around 30 far right racist nationalists. There were also 30 or more cops who mostly did a passable job of keeping the two groups apart; at least didn't pepper spray us as they did in Melbourne.

They did, however, stop us from marching the most direct route up the hill to Parliament House. We were ahead of the racists and would have reached Parliament House first, but the police stopped us and then let the racists past! But we just walked another way to Parliament House and stood about 25 metres from the racists and fascists.

We chanted at them. "Muslims are welcome, racists are not,” we chanted, "Racist scum, off our streets", “Refugees are welcome, bigotry is not” and "You will always lose in Canberra". They responded with the highly original "Losers, losers, losers".

The woman who tried to cause me bodily harm took advantage of our crowd thinning in the middle at one stage to come over to our side of the road. I found myself staring at her and stayed exactly where I was.

She then lowered her flag and charged at me. I grabbed hold of the flag pole before it could ram into my stomach and didn't let go. She snatched the Green Left Weekly newspapers out of my other hand and threw them on the ground. This allowed me to hold onto the flag pole with two hands and stop her from injuring me.

A male police officer then intervened and pulled her away from me, which was good. Less good was that when — acting instinctively — I put my hand on his arm to attract his attention and said “I just got stabbed with a flag!”, he shouted at me to take my hands off him and utterly ignored what I had said.

At least he didn't arrest me. I am glad of that. I am also glad that a friend came over at that moment, tapped me on the arm and suggested I move away from the cop. It was a very good suggestion and I followed it readily.

I was glad I managed to defend myself and not be injured by that dangerous racist. But mostly I'm glad that I was out with many others opposing racist ideology and in a big crowd for Canberra. It was a great turnout. Well done to the Canberra Anti-Racism Network for organising it and to all those who attended.

If anyone one wants to get involved in the anti-racist movement, there are organising groups all around the country and will be ongoing protests I'm sure. The Canberra Anti-Racism Network can be found here.

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