It's been a while since I attended a rally in Melbourne, I used to attend refugee rallies years ago until I became so demoralised and disheartened I could no longer bear to attend. I have been so distressed lately at the direction this country is heading that I want to leave and not come back at least until some decent people are running the country, and in my opinion that is neither the LNP or the ALP, so I could be away for a while. I would renounce my citizenship if I had another country to call home.
Anyway, I decided that I was sick of sitting at home feeling helpless and wanted to do something about it. I went to the anti-racism counter rally against Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front on Saturday to add to the numbers to show them that their ignorant, bigoted views are not welcome in this country. But it seems that their horrible, racist views are actually welcomed by a few in this country. Upon arriving at the rally I was confronted with the largest number of police I have ever seen. They were standing in formation down the alleyways, there were many on horseback, they were lined up along Parliament house in rows and protected a cordoned off area for the racists to have their little protest. And it was a little protest, even with the Nazis that came from Sydney by bus for the event. We clearly outnumbered them by more than 1500 people.
We marched from Bourke Street around the block and were met with rows of police, at least two deep, plus police on horseback. We all formed a chain across the front and linked arms. We were all standing there peacefully when the police on horseback charged right at us to break us up and push us back. I was sandwiched between two horses and trying to look out for those around me, one of whom was an elderly man. The charge on horseback was completely uncalled for and no one could understand why the cops did this as we had only started to gather and were nowhere near close to the racist rally. The cops had barricaded off the area so far away we couldn't have gained access to the hideous Reclaim rally. As I stood on the front line with my arms linked in with complete strangers, I could feel my legs shaking and adrenalin was rushing through my body. I was struck by the expressions on the faces of the police. They had utter contempt for us, smirking and with smarmy or aggressive facial expressions. And we were there to campaign against racism and the disgusting Nazi arseholes.
If there was trouble, it was because the Nazis were allowed by the police to infiltrate our counter-rally and incite violence. Many of them came directly into our rally and started mouthing off and behaving aggressively. The police pepper sprayed people in the counter-rally, including a pregnant woman who was part of the street medic team engaged in treating an injured person who had been heavily pepper sprayed. The moment that was like a punch in the guts for me was when the United Patriots Front goons arrived by police escort to join the Reclaim rally which had started earlier. They were escorted to their rally surrounded by police for protection.
I don't know why I was so affected or surprised by this but seeing such a police presence and all aimed at protecting a bunch of ignorant, hate filled Nazis flying Australian flags made me absolutely sick to my stomach. It made me scream even louder and I no longer cared about not swearing in front of the police. At one point I heard one of the police women on horseback say to another “Why don't we just foam all of them?” - meaning that she thought it would be a great idea to use pepper spray on all of us! My eyes nearly fell out of my head and I braced myself for what might come next. Fortunately I did not cop the pepper spray but many others did and are still feeling the effects of it today.
What kind of country are we living in where people against racism and bigoted views standing up for what they believe in are treated with such contempt and excessive use of force/violence by police but people spewing hate are protected, escorted and given a platform for their horrid views?! The Reclaim Australia and UPF Nazis are so incredibly misguided. One had a sign that said “Stop White Genocide”. Another had a sign that said “Australian Law Only”. That typo was in the sign, they don't even know how to spell Australia. They think sharia law is an issue in Australia when the Muslim population constitutes about 2.3 percent of the population. They are campaigning against halal certification claiming that it is funding terrorism, which has been proven to be untrue. The name Reclaim Australia itself is so incredibly offensive to begin with. Reclaim Australia for who?! They weren't there to reclaim it for the Aboriginal people.
The counter rally was very well organised and orderly, I was so impressed by the various groups coming together and how well prepared they were, with street medics, legal observers, marshals, and so many trying to diffuse the situation when the Nazis entered our area. But instead of highlighting the positive message we were there to communicate the media has painted the counter-rally participants as violent ratbags who needed squashing by police. The police were not there to protect us, they are instruments of the state and were there to squash us, I could see the intent in their faces and I witnessed it in their actions.
Tony Abbott allowed one of his MPs to attend a Reclaim rally and has been pretty quiet on the weekend's events. In his silence, it is abundantly clear that Tony Abbott supports these right wing bigots and causing such divisiveness in society is exactly what he wants. It all serves as a distraction from the horrible mess they're making of the country and they're scapegoating minority groups in the process. Divide and rule.
Saturday's rally was a wake up call for me. It has left me feeling sick and upset but it is absolutely crystal clear to me that we simply cannot allow these racist, bigoted thugs to have a platform for their hate speech and we need to turn out in droves to outnumber them at any future actions they hold. If something is not done to squash their movement then I have no doubt things are going to escalate into another Cronulla. Politicians and the media need to start being more responsible and stop whipping up fear and feeding into Islamophobia, it's disgusting and embarrassing. Shut the racists and fascists down!
End of rant!