Racist ‘Reclaim Australia’ rally dwarfed by anti-racist response

On Saturday July 18 Australia’s most vitriolic racists planned to join with neo-Nazi groups to hold the country’s “biggest ever patriot rally” in Melbourne. In response the #NoRoomForRacism campaign organised a rally to counter their plans.

In the end, just over 100 people joined the racists and neo-Nazis in front of the Victorian Parliament. Around 3,000 people joined the anti-racist counter rally.

Without this mobilisation the numbers rallying with Reclaim Australia/United Patriots Front would have been much larger. Despite threats of violence from neo-Nazi groups in the days leading up to the rallies people turned out in thousands. It is because of this determination that the far-right will always lose in Melbourne!

The plan of the anti-racist demonstration had been to peacefully occupy the area around Victorian Parliament to stop the racist and neo-Nazi groups from spreading hate-speech on a public street. For many years socialists and other anti-racist campaigners have been using this tactic to stop public mobilisations of the far-right. We always outnumber them and they go home demoralised. Usually they don’t try to organise another rally for a long time afterwards.

This time the Victoria Police made the outrageous decision to facilitate the Reclaim Australia/United Patriots Front rally. Over 400 police were deployed to protect the racists and neo-Nazis. This amounts to a police protection of 4 officers for every 1 racist. When a fight broke out amongst the different racists inside their own rally, police patiently separated the sparring groups. Following the rally there was a widely circulated photo on social media showing a police officer high-fiving a neo-Nazi. Just 20 minutes after the police had marched the neo-Nazi groups into the cordoned area, they marched them back out, across the steps of Parliament.

The anti-racist campaigners on our side took the peaceful yet determined action of linking arms to block entry to racists and neo-Nazis throughout the day. The Victoria Police used excessive force, pepper spray and the riot squad to break apart these picket lines in attempts to allow entry to racists and neo-Nazis who turned up late. Most of the injuries resulted from police actions, not the actions of protesters. A few scuffles broke out, almost all initiated by neo-Nazis attacking the anti-racist rally. Two neo-Nazis were arrested after attacking the crowd, and many more Reclaim Australia/United Patriots Front supporters were turned away by our pickets.

Without police protection it would not have been possible for the one hundred racists and neo-Nazis to hold a rally. They would not have managed to force their way through our crowd of thousands to reach their rallying point.

The open facilitation of the racist rally by police was also mirrored the next day in Sydney. The outrageous decision to act as private security for neo-Nazis while using unnecessary force against peaceful anti-racist protestors highlights that the problem of racism runs much deeper than the far-right fringe.

Far-right racist groups like Reclaim Australia are a direct product of the much more mainstream racism and nationalism espoused by the major political parties. This means we can’t rely on these forces to combat the rise of racism, but instead must work to build a strong anti-racist movement of ordinary people to keep our streets free of racist hate-speech.

This will require outlining socialist solutions to the racist divisions created by a system that pits worker against worker while the rich get richer.

By Mel Gregson

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