Hanson protesters outnumber supporters

Issue 

On May 9, more than 3000 anti-racist protesters prevented Pauline Hanson from launching her One Nation party in Hobart. In contrast to the large crowd of protesters, the launch attracted just over 300 supporters.

Tony Iltis reports that more than 2000 people gathered in Franklin Square at 7pm for a rally, organised by Tasmanians Against Racism (TAR). After hearing speakers, the crowd marched to City Hall, where Hanson's meeting was to be held, and where another 1000 anti-racists had already gathered.

Since it was a public meeting, protesters began to enter the hall, at first individually or in small groups, then in larger numbers. By the time police locked the doors, Hanson's supporters had been swamped by up to 800 protesters chanting "Migrants are welcome, racists are not", "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Pauline Hanson has to go" and "Shame".

The meeting was then abandoned. Jeered by the crowd, Hanson's supporters left the hall under police escort.

Hobart Democratic Socialist Party secretary Iggy Kim, a speaker at the rally, told Green Left Weekly: "Hanson's media juggernaut has created the impression that most ordinary Australians share her views. The people of Hobart disproved that by outnumbering her supporters 10 to one. They stopped her spreading her message of hatred here."

"In contrast to the small homogeneous group that turned out to support Hanson, the opposition was large and diverse", Kim said. "There were Asians, Aboriginal people, Latin Americans, Turks, Greeks and Anglo-Australians at the demonstration. Workers, students and unemployed were joined by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals. There were young and old."

Kerry Packer's Nine network echoed Hanson's claims that her meeting was stopped by an "undemocratic and violent minority". Kim says, "Every bigoted statement Hanson makes is repeated in the media. For the anti-racist majority, the only way we can be heard is by uniting in our thousands and shouting the bigots down."

On May 10, Hanson visited Launceston. While police ensured that her meeting went ahead, her supporters were outnumbered by 1000 protesters outside.

On May 4, hundreds of people gathered outside West Geelong Town Hall to protest a meeting there, the first attempt by Hanson's supporters to form a branch of One Nation in Victoria.

Ben Reid reports that migrant, Aboriginal and trade union speakers outlined the reasons for their opposition to Hanson's ideas and pointed to the multicultural character of the area where the party branch was to be established.

When the protesters surged into the hall, the 20 or so Hanson supporters were forced to cancel the meeting.

It has been reported that Hanson said her first visit to Perth was "the hardest 24 hours of my life". Corrine Glenn reports that both of Hanson's official functions there were met by large, vibrant and angry protests.

Her first function, on May 3, was held at Challenge Stadium. The meeting was attended by about 1000 people at $15 a head, but had 2000 protesting outside. One protester has been charged with assault after throwing a tomato at Hanson.

On May 4, a breakfast of Hanson supporters attracted about 70 people, who were greeted by 500 protesters. This protest lasted from 6.30 to 11am. Police punched, kicked and kneed protesters behind the barricades they had set up, and passing motorists who honked their horns in support of the protest were fined.

When Hanson left and the protesters began to disperse, police arrested Neil Grey, a member of Militant and Queer Radical, and Steve Fleming from the socialist youth organisation Resistance.

Perth Resistance organiser Arun Pradhan told Green Left Weekly, "Hanson claims to be the voice of the majority of Australians, yet the protesters far outnumbered the people attending her functions. Hanson claims to be a defendant of free speech, yet protesters exercising their right to social protest were beaten and kicked by the police."

Action Against Racism is organising further protests, including against Paul Filing, the independent MP who organised Hanson's visit to Perth, and a defence campaign for those arrested or fined at the anti-Hanson demonstrations.

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