Far-right figure Phillip Galea, who was recently sentenced to jail on terrorism charges, threatened me after having done reconnaissance on the Resistance Bookshop in Melbourne.
Galea was given a sentence of 12 years on November 20, with a non-parole period of nine years.
Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth was reported to have told the sentencing hearing: “You clearly regarded Muslims and people on the left wing of politics as sub-humans whose lives have no value”.
Galea had been a member of the far-right United Patriots Front and Reclaim Australia, although both dissociated themselves from him after he was charged.
Galea was found guilty in 2019 of planning to attack the Resistance Bookshop, Trades Hall and the Melbourne Anarchist Club in 2016. He had visited all his target sites to take photos and videos and draw up maps of the venues' layouts.
I was in the Resistance Bookshop in 2016 when Galea entered. He asked if we had the Anarchist Cookbook and a book about the IRA’s military tactics and secretly filmed the interaction.
Later, he started working on a Patriots Cookbook to encourage others to commit violence against left-wing activists and Muslims.
The reports about Galea’s sentencing omitted that he had previously been arrested after police had been tipped off that far-right individuals intended to bring weapons to an anti-immigration rally in Melton in 2015.
The police arrested Galea on November 19, 2015, after they discovered five stun guns and 362.1 grams of mercury at his Braybrook home. Galea had expressed his intention to take the weapons to the Melton protest to use against anti-racist activists who had planned an anti-racist counter-rally.
At the time, the police did not take the far right seriously.
In a blatant attempt to impugn anti-racist activists, the police did not confirm whether the person under suspicion supported the fascists or the anti-racists. This is despite knowing that Galea was connected to the far right. His Facebook page showed his hatred of Muslims.
While 362.1 grams of mercury doesn’t sound large, it is highly toxic. Properly prepared and detonated, this amount of fulminated mercury could completely destroy the places he was targeting, or a mosque full of worshippers.
Galea was arrested on new charges in August 2016, and has been in custody since then.
While far-right groups have remained relatively small, since 2015 they have organised more systematically.
After a counter-rally against an anti-Muslim protest by Reclaim Australia on April 4, 2015, the far-right website “Ban Islam Party” produced a Facebook page called “Left Watch”, which carried photos of the anti-racist rally participants. It said “these are the most active/violent LeftWing Terrorists who attacked Patriots on April 4th 2015 — if you recognise any be sure to let us know.”
The far-right targeted those communities who were applying to build a mosque. In late 2015, the far right bussed supporters into Bendigo for anti-mosque protests.
On November 1, 2015, a group of United Patriots Front members, led by Blair Cottrell, gained entry into Community Radio station 3CR, filming inside the building without permission. They took special interest in the photos of 3CR volunteers and posted a video to their Facebook page. They had tried to get into the Melbourne Anarchist Club.
Myself and other organisers of a “Moreland City says No to Racism” rally in May 2016 stared down efforts by the far-right True Blue Crew to shut down our event. The racists organised a counter-rally and, while they failed to disrupt ours, they started a campaign of threats against me, including on the Moreland Council Facebook page.
In 2017, the United Patriots Front invaded Yarra and Moreland council meetings to threaten councillors who had taken a stand to not recognise January 26 as Australia Day.
Threats of violence from the far right need to be taken seriously.
Galea and other extremists are influenced by those with much bigger platforms who peddle racism day in day out: some sit in parliament and some dominate the air waves and mainstream media outlets.
They also need to be brought to account, because institutional racism helps create an environment in which far-right threats can become normalised.
[Sue Bolton is a Socialist Alliance councillor in Moreland City Council and a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive.]