Two thousand people rallied in Federation Square on April 4 to oppose Reclaim Australia freely spreading racism and fascism on the streets of Melbourne.
Anti-racist participants included socialists, anarchists, feminists, refugee rights advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the politically unaligned. All were united in a common cause to stop the spread of racism in Australia.
Counter-rallies to Reclaim Australia also took place in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Newcastle, organised by people who stand by the belief that the right to free speech is not a right to hate speech, or a right to racially discriminate against minorities.
The No Room for Racism group was diverse and inclusive. Most were young people determined to fight for a future in which all people — regardless of ethnicity, culture or religion — are treated equally in society and before the law.
Fifteen thousand people had previously rallied on Palm Sunday, March 29, which was also attended by a huge number of young people marching against racism and Australia’s abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
The backlash from the Reclaim Australia protests has been confronting. Reclaim Australia organisers have threatened another round of national rallies in May, and have made claims that they will be even larger next time around. This gives the left and anyone with any shred of human decency time to prepare to counter-mobilise against these racists rallies for a second time.
One aspect of youth protests that most of the mainstream media tends to ignore is just how acutely aware most young protesters are of how they will be labelled and whether or not they will be considered “radical” or “dangerous”. In fact, the incredible downplaying is a big fault of the coverage, because it never asks why are these people fighting for this cause and what are the systemic factors behind it?
Indian and Muslim students are frequently targeted in violent attacks. In particular, police reports of violence against women wearing the hijab have risen since last year.
During protests at the University of Sydney against the ongoing occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state, students saw a supporter of their group assaulted by a Zionist woman.
Young Aboriginal people are taking up the fight against the ever-increasing social, cultural and actual genocide of their people in this country. The National Union of Students defunded the Indigenous officer position at its latest national conference, which sparked retaliation from Aboriginal students and supporters.
Young Aboriginal people still have less chance of getting into university, are being forcibly removed from their own land and then told it’s a “lifestyle choice”, and experience a higher suicide rate than any other group of people in this country.
Young refugees in detention centres are fighting for survival, prompting student groups to organise protests against the continued human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island. Student groups are setting up new and creative ways to protest human rights abuses against asylum seekers in light of continued information showing sexual assault against children, women and men, lack of medical care and physical abuse from security.
So it should not have surprised anyone that people turned out in droves to oppose the racism of Reclaim Australia. Agitation against racism does not occur in a vacuum in this country and nor do opportunistic ideas from the far right.
As long as there is rampant racism in society, it will always filter down into the society’s most vulnerable. As long as this happens, it must be fought in any way possible.
Photos: Alex Bainbridge