A collective of alt-right and neo-Nazi groups organised what they called a “political meeting” at St Kilda beach on January 5. It came a week after the neo-Nazi Neil Erikson led a group of acolytes down to the same beach to harass and film African Australians in an attempt to incite violence.
Various hate-filled Facebook pages promoted the “meeting”, including one described as “Rise Up Australia — Romper Stomper 2.0”, a reference to a film about white supremacists in Footscray who attacked and violently assaulted Vietnamese Australians.
The event was not a “political meeting” nor was it ever intended to be. The racists wanted a repeat of the Cronulla race riots that took place in Sydney in 2005.
Rally organisers Erikson and Blair Cottrell have a long history of racism, inciting violence and harassing minority communities. Cottrell has proudly proclaimed himself to be a neo-Nazi in interviews on Triple J’s Hack program and on Sky News.
On the day, about 150 racists were opposed by up to 300 anti-racists, including members of Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, the Smashed Avocado Movement, trade unions, and anarchist and socialist groups. Some St Kilda locals joined in, unhappy with the neo-Nazi event.
The far right claimed to be highlighting the need to prevent “African gang violence”. This is ironic given that Cottrell has had several criminal convictions, including for arson and burglary. Erikson also has a number of convictions, including for assault and stalking.
Independent Senator Fraser Anning attended at the taxpayer's expense, declaring that the people he met were all “decent Australian working people”. Only after a photograph of him shaking hands with Cottrell was circulated and Anning posted race hate comments on his Facebook page was Prime Minister Scott Morrison forced to come out with a weak statement about “ugly racial protests”. He said nothing about Anning's attendance.
One alt-right protester was seen wearing a Nazi SS helmet and others were photographed giving Nazi salutes, disproving Anning’s claim that no one was doing this.
Anning's attendance was yet another racist political stunt to appeal to his base. Less than a week later he registered his new Conservative Nationals party.
Last October, Anning was expelled from Katter’s Australian Party – another conservative outfit. He had been heavily criticised for advocating a “final solution” for immigration in his maiden speech in parliament last August.
Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups see an opportunity to grow and they are trying to build a base. A few days before the January 5 rally, a Jewish nursing home was covered in swastika stickers in Caulfield, a suburb near to St Kilda.
Given that the neo-Nazi's swastika flags and other paraphernalia made their message very clear, the establishment media needs to examine its own reporting, including how it helps fan racism.
With few exceptions, the corporate media has uncritically repeated the lies about “African gang crime” despite Sudanese migrants making up less than 2% of Victoria's crime statistics.
Such racist reporting only serves to raise racial tension. It also helps provide governments with a scapegoat when, in reality, its own unfair and discriminatory economic and social policies need to be bought under the spotlight.
A further anti-racist rally, organised on January 12 by Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, attracted more than 400 people.
That event allowed more people to condemn the far-right, the establishment media and politicians who fuel racism.
It was also an important chance to demonstrate solidarity with the African community and showed that many people are keen to unite against racism.