How anti-racists beat back the racists

Issue 
Part of the Melbourne anti-racist rally.

On the weekend of July 18 and 19 rallies were held around Australia to counter the racist rallies organised by Reclaim Australia and the fascist United Patriots Front.

Following is a roundup of some of the rallies.

* * *

Melbourne
A planned show of strength by racists and neo-Nazis in Melbourne backfired when once again far-right protesters were outnumbered 20 to one on July 18.

Far-right racist group United Patriots Front (UPF) had been bragging on Facebook that it was going to take on the left in Melbourne. UPF and the group it split from earlier this year, Reclaim Australia, had high hopes for a big turnout at their rally.

It ended up being a flop with only about 50 Reclaim Australia protesters and 60 UPF protesters showing up. The hundreds of police mobilised seem to favour the neo-Nazis, as demonstrated by a racist and a police officer photographed doing a “high-five”.

Meanwhile, about 2000 anti-racists counter-mobilised to demonstrate that the majority of people in Melbourne stand against the racist, Islamophobic ideas of Reclaim Australia/UPF.

The anti-racist rally may have been bigger if not for the public threats of violence by the UPF. On July 23 Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton revealed that a gun had been seized from the bus of a group of UPF supporters travelling from Sydney to Melbourne for the rally. Police said they seized the weapon when they stopped the bus after reading social media posts from members of the group saying they were bringing weapons such as guns and knives to the rally.

Sydney

More than 300 anti-racist protesters, 100 racists and 100 or more police, some on horses, took to the streets in Sydney's CBD on July 19.

The anti-racist rally was peaceful, until police allowed racist provocateurs into the anti-racist rally. Protestors responded by chanting at them until the racists were rescued by police.

Strong leadership from Aboriginal activists — including Uncle Ken Canning, Uncle Albert Harnett and Felon Mason — kept the rally together and safe.

A number of speakers condemned the UPF and others who had called the “Reclaim rally”. Rahaf Ahmed from UTS Muslim Association, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Paddy Gibson from Stop the Intervention Collective, and Peter Boyle, Rachel Evans and Helen Patterson from Socialist Alliance all slammed the government's anti-Muslim, anti-Aboriginal and anti-asylum seeker policies for creating the political space for the xenophobes to start organising.

Perth

About 400 anti-racist activists faced off against 500 Reclaim Australia demonstrators in Perth on July 19.
The first Reclaim Australia rally in Perth on April 4 was clearly larger than the counter protest that was called at the last minute. However at this rally there were more anti-racist people and a possible decline in the Reclaim numbers.
The rally was addressed by a range of union and community activists who condemned Reclaim's racist and divisive agenda.
Anti-racist activists have vowed to organise further actions if Reclaim mobilises again.

Hobart

A UPF rally of about 20 people was met by 200 Say No to Racism protesters and about 25 police in Hobart on July 19.

Say No to Racism protesters included Greens, Socialist Alliance, anarchists, local musicians and people who had "never been to a rally before".

Say No to Racism protesters disrupted the UPF rally at each stopping point and as they marched on the street.

The UPF had originally expected 200 people to attend the rally, but only one-tenth of that number turned up.

Canberra
About 150 anti-racists and 30 far right racist nationalists turned up to the Canberra rally on July 19. There were also 30 or more police who mostly did a passable job of keeping the two groups apart.

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

Rally chants included: "Muslims are welcome, racists are not” and "Racist scum, off our streets". They responded with the highly original "Losers, losers, losers".

This was a big crowd for Canberra. When overtly racist right-wing forces come onto the streets, they need to be shown that there are many more who are against that kind of hatred.

Adelaide
About 200 people attended the Reclaim Australia rally at Parliament House on July 18. The 400 anti-racism counter-protesters, who spilled out onto the main road blocking parts of North Terrace, easily outnumbered them. There were significantly more anti-racists at this rally than at the April rally.

The two protests were kept separate by a large police presence that formed a double-layered buffer between the two groups — with their backs to the racists.

The Reclaim Australia rally blasted loud “Australian anthems”, including many by artists who have since condemned the Reclaim movement and all it stands for.

Anti-racist protesters kept up loud chants throughout the three-hour stand-off, including “Muslims are welcome, racists are not” and “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. Reclaim Australia responded with “Aussies are welcome, socialists are not”.

The Reclaim rally seemed to be on the defensive, constantly asserting that they “weren’t racist”. Speakers included a representative from the newly-formed nationalist group Concerned Citizens of SA who spoke about the “threat” of mosques.

Newcastle

About 300 people marched from the Customs House Plaza to Newcastle Foreshore Park to rally a short distance from the Reclaim Australia rally of about 150 people.

Erin Killion told Green Left Weekly that the racists had a free run at their last Newcastle rally in April.

“This time activists planned a democratic and organised response to their bigotry,” she said. “We could see that the numbers mobilised by Reclaim Australia down the other end of the park were well down.

“If they rally again then so will we. Racists are not welcome in Newcastle.”

Brisbane
Around 200 anti-racists protested against the Reclaim Australia Rally, outnumbering the racists. Police kept the rally and counter-rally separate by erecting tape barriers.

There was one arrest and, other than both sides chanting against one another, there was no violence.

Reclaim Australia tried to drown out the counter-rally speakers with loud music, but this did not prevent speakers from denouncing the racist aims of Reclaim Australia.

Well-respected Aboriginal elder and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson spoke against the divisive nature of Reclaim Australia. “There is only one race: the human race,” he said.

Although there was no organised presence by unions at the counter-rally, members of the public sector unions, Maritime Union of Australia, the Services Union and the National Tertiary Education Union were present. A speaker from the National Union of Workers addressed the counter-rally.

Cairns

About 70 people attended an anti-racist rally in Cairns. Organising began just days before when a Politics in the Pub, organised by the Socialist Alliance, took up the issue. The rally crowd was the first organised opposition to Reclaim Australia in the city.

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