WOLLONGONG — On August 7, 50 people who had gathered in the southern highlands town of Robertson to protest peacefully against the inaugural meeting of the One Nation party were assaulted by racists.
Activists from Resistance, Youth Against Racism, the Campaign Against Racism and local community members had assembled outside the Robertson School of Arts, with placards and information.
The demonstrators handed out leaflets rebutting some of Hanson's claims, and sang and chanted enthusiastically. High school students danced and played drums.
From the outset, eggs and insults were thrown at protesters by Hanson supporters. A protester carrying a megaphone was attacked with pliers, and the megaphone cord was slashed. Police witnessed the attack but did not intervene or attempt to arrest or even question the attacker.
Several Hanson supporters remained outside. They attempted to intimidate protesters by writing down the number plates of protesters' cars, and following protesters across the road to the toilets, forcing us to go only in groups.
Following the meeting, more eggs were thrown at protesters. A local man was hit in the eye, and another protester was knocked to the ground. At least one Hanson supporter punched a protester, giving him a bleeding nose.
Police have refused to lay charges on the evidence of protesters unless the incidents were recorded by television cameras. Police even refused to take statements from bleeding protesters.
Television coverage then claimed that police suspected protesters "came to the rally with more than placards and banners"! Several protesters intend to lodge official complaints against police.
Protest organisers had stressed the need for protests against One Nation to be peaceful, and the rights of all to free speech. These incidents prove that it is Hanson supporters who are promoting hatred and violence.
Campaign Against Racism spokesperson Andrew Hall said: "In spite of tonight's violence, we will not be intimidated, and we will continue to exercise our democratic right to freedom of speech and show our opposition to One Nation's racist and divisive policies.
"This was a good example of a non-violent, empowering and politically challenging protest. But it has been twisted by the media to imply that trouble was caused by the demonstrators."
Journalists were visibly shocked at the time, but they — or their editors — still did not accurately report the events. The Illawarra Mercury, for example, headlined its coverage "All quiet in Robertson", and omitted to mention the punching by Hanson supporters or the attack with pliers.
"This was one of the most spirited and enthusiastic protests. People going to the meeting were not abused", said Hall.
"A majority of people attending the meeting were undecided on the party's views but wanted to hear for themselves. Upon leaving the meeting, a number of people commented that they now agreed with the protesters, and several congratulated us for protesting."
Dr Margaret Perrott, a long-term peace activist who attended the protest, told Green Left Weekly, "I was shocked at the television's attempts to deliberately distort the facts".
Local television news coverage repeated lies from Hanson supporters, including from one, a confessed "proud racist", that egg on his car was thrown by protesters.
"Everyone there, protesters, police and One Nation supporters, knew it was the racists throwing eggs", Dr Perrott said.
Another One Nation meeting in Robertson is planned in four weeks. All people interested in coordinating a non-violent and safe response to Hanson and her One Nation supporters should contact the Campaign Against Racism or Resistance on (042) 262 010.