More than 100 community and union activists turned out on to the steps of Geelong Town Hall on July 25 to say “no room for racism”.
They mobilised in response to provocative media coverage of a small Naarm/Melbourne-based Nazi group which had posed in front of the Town Hall and the local office of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) the previous week.
The solidarity rally was initiated by the community at newly-elected City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) councillor Sarah Hathway’s first consultation in Norlane. Residents decided at that meeting to organise publicly for tolerance and diversity in response to racism.
“It shows that even a small group of residents getting together, talking through an issue and taking an initiative can have a broader impact,” Hathway told Green Left.
Activists from the MUA, the CFMEU and other unions, Geelong Trades Hall , the Combined Refugee Action Group, Socialist Alliance and various churches attended. A number of CoGG councillors did too.
Ross Smith, a spokesperson for the MUA, said hate speech would not destroy union and community unity.
John Setka, Victorian CFMEU Secretary, told the Geelong Advertiser that the small National Socialist Network group had rioted outside the CFMEU Melbourne offices in 2020 in “a display of weakness and chaos”. “We will always stand by our brothers and sisters, regardless of their race, religion or gender.”
A number of the activists later attended the CoGG Council meeting where Hathway expressed her optimism to work with communities on positive campaigns in her maiden speech.
Jenna Wade, a Norlane resident, asked council to support an anti-racist campaign, including with posters promoting social justice, equity and inclusion.