A rally on Saturday May 28 in Moreland in the inner north of Melbourne has been attracting support from organisations keen to show their opposition to racism.
About 55 groups, including unions, community and faith-based groups, community radio and political parties have signed on to the rally initiated by Socialist Alliance Councillor in Moreland Sue Bolton.
The rally's focus is around four key points: Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities; Treaty now; Let the refugees in — Close Manus and Nauru; and No to Islamophobia.
Bolton told Green Left Weekly that the idea to call such a community response happened before the federal election was called. Now that the election has been called, the timing is even more important because of racism of the major parties.
“I thought a community rally was a great way of giving the community an opportunity to reject the racism of the major parties. It also provides communities an opening to voice their opposition to the increasing attacks on people of colour in suburbs.
“Now that the election has been called, it means that the community has an opportunity to make their voices heard.”
Initially, Bolton had a hard time getting her own council to come on board. Now, however, it is one of many to show its support for the community's stand.
The sign-ons are coming in every day as more people realise that racism is one of the core, but hidden, policy issues in this election campaign. Just today, the AMWU signed on, as did the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition.
The enormous community response has heartened many. But it also led to the racist far right deciding to hold a counter-rally. But the rally organisers are not being deterred.
Bolton was asked by the police to call it off. “Fat chance”, she told Green Left Weekly. The police then pressured the council to ask Bolton to cancel the event. She resisted that too.
“We have a strategy in place to ensure that community members coming along are safe, and feel they can bring their families”, Bolton explained.
“We have asked several trade unions, Muslim community and other social justice group to act as community marshals and to help ensure the rally remains focused on the political points we need to make.”
“We are appealing to supporters of this rally to make every effort to ensure that the demands of the rally remain the central issue and not be sidetracked. We are not interested in giving the far right a free kick – no pun intended.
“The far right is a threat to democracy, and to our civil liberties. It has been able to grow because of the major parties push racist explanations for people's legitimate concerns about employment, housing and living standards.
“The way progressives deal with this threat can either help build the anti-racist movement, and all the associated social movements such as the unions and community groups, or it can backfire and leave us more isolated and voiceless.
“We want the Moreland rally to say in the strongest possible way that our communities reject racism – against First Nations peoples, against refugees and asylum seekers and people of Muslim background. They are not our enemy: the government and its policies towards these oppressed minorities are.”
To add your organisation's endorsement for the rally phone Sue on 0413 377 978 or Chloe on 0419 592 991. The Facebook event is here.
[Sue Bolton is standing for re-election in the coming council elections in October.]