September 5 was a big day for Victoria’s extreme Right.
In the morning, three fascists, United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell, the Party for Freedom’s Neil Erikson and supporter Christopher Shortis, were all found guilty of inciting serious contempt of Muslims.
In the evening, nine protesters from Party of Freedom, armed with megaphones and clutching signs reading "Love it or leave it", stormed the Yarra Council meeting to oppose its decision to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day and to cease holding any citizenship ceremonies on that day.
The self-named “Bendigo Three” were convicted by Bendigo Magistrate John Hardy of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims, after staging a mock “beheading” of a dummy with a toy sword outside the Bendigo City Council offices in 2015. The men also chanted "Allahu Akbar" and spilled fake blood on the footpath and wall of a garden bed beside the offices.
They were fined $2000 each for the stunt, which was in protest at the council approving the building of a mosque in Bendigo. The magistrate said the action was clearly intended to create serious contempt for or ridicule of Muslims. It is the first time a criminal charge under Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act has been tested in court.
Just after 7pm on the same day, protesters from the Party for Freedom gathered out the front of the Richmond Town Hall to rally against the council’s decision to replace its January 26 citizenship ceremony with an event "marking the loss of Indigenous culture".
Draped in Australian flags and with cameras attached to their bodies filming the disruption, the group gatecrashed the meeting as it was beginning. But after marching around, shouting abuse and trying to intimidate councillors, the fascists left just before police arrived.
Yarra socialist councillor Stephen Jolly said: "Rather than come along and speak in public question time like everybody else they attempted to shut down the democratic process."
Jolly said the group was hurling abuse at councillors and making "absolute idiots of themselves", as stunned residents looked on. He said he believed their intention was to intimidate the council into closing the meeting.
"There is plenty of room for people to have debate,” he said, “but this was something totally different. It was a direct move against the democratic process that we haven't seen in recent times.
"Australians fought and died trying to protect people from the Nazis, yet we have this group of people tonight, in modern day Australia, who are saying 'we don't like what you do, so we are going to destroy it'.
"We refused to be intimidated and we continued with the meeting after they left. No matter what they were about, we will not accept that."