When word started spreading that the far right wanted to relive the 2005 racist Cronulla riot organised an April 9 "mass rally against migrants and Islam" in Melbourne, anti-racist groups started organising a counter rally, to show that migrants were welcome and racism was not.
The racist rally was aimed at inciting the kind of hatred that has led to a recent increase in violent attacks against migrants and international students in Melbourne. A similar rally was called by the Australian Protectionist Party outside Sydney's Villawood detention centre for April 11.
On April 9, 300 people converged on Melbourne's Flinders Street Station for the Unite Against Racism rally.
The far-right rally couldn't go ahead because the anti-racist activists occupied the space first. Those organising the racist rally abandoned their plans and stayed in the pub across the road from the station.
At the Unite Against Racism rally there were people from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the United Firefighters Union, the Meatworkers Union, the National Union of Workers, Refugee Action Collective and Australia-Asia Worker Links, as well as socialist groups.
An Indigenous activist from Black Rights Action Group, Sharon Firebrace, said attacks against migrants were linked with injustices against Indigenous people. "No one is above the law. ", she said. "We need equality before the law."
Bishop Philip Huggins told the crowd: "Racism is a complete nonsense."
Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd said racism was a tool used to divide working people. "Fascism is not welcome in this city", he said.
Comedian Nazeem Hussain pointed out the racist hypocrisy of Victorian police: on the one hand they deny attacks on Indians are racially motivated, on the other hand they encourage Indians not to speak too loudly in their own language.
Other speakers included Felicity Hill from the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, Yarra Socialist Party ouncillor Steve Jolly, Greens candidate Adam Bandt and comedian Rod Quantock.
There were musical performances by the Brothahood and Musicians for Justice.
At the rally, Socialist Alliance activist Trent Hawkins told Green Left Weekly: "The far right has been emboldened to have these rallies because of the racist atmosphere created by Liberal and Labor's anti-refugee and anti-Indigenous campaigns, and so-called anti-terror laws.
"As Labor escalates its attacks on refugees — as we've seen in recent days — racist groups are becoming more visible, more organised. Are we meant to think there's no connection? Racism has been legitimised by the major parties."