Thousands of people attended a far-right anti-LGBTI rally in Sydney on 18 March. The protest was organised by an alliance of conservative religious organisations, led by Christian Lives Matter, under the banner “protect the children” from the supposed threat of trans people in particular and LGBTI people more generally.
This was the largest anti-LGBTI protest since the marriage equality plebiscite in 2017 and comes after a flare-up of anti-LGBTI actions in Sydney in previous weeks. In Newtown last Friday, a group of men marched through Newtown to protest against World Pride, and there have been several actions targeting comedian Rueben Kaye over a joke he made about Jesus on Ten’s The Project.
Christian Lives Matter have been involved in all of these actions and are trying to construct a broad front of right-wing anti-LGBTI organisations in Sydney. In the lead-up to the protest, they attracted more than 450 people to an online organising meeting at only a few hours’ notice. While the core of the protest was made up of the Maronite Christians organised in Christian Lives Matter, it also attracted right-wing people from various religious backgrounds.
Attendees at the rally were rabid. At one point, 300 protesters under a stark black banner emblazoned with the slogan Militia Christi (Soldiers of Christ) tried to smash their way through a line of police to attack a counter-protest of LGBTI activists. One of the protesters managed to storm the stage of the counter rally to give a Hitler salute, while others drove around the counter-protest screaming “kill the pedos”.
This is a shocking political development. Six years after we won marriage equality, thousands and thousands of people have taken to the streets to call LGBTI people “paedophiles”. It is also a sign that far-right political groups are trying to mobilise their forces and push back against the gains that LGBTI people have been able to win in recent years.
It comes after years of hysterical coverage in the mainstream media about trans people and young people in particular, and the whole idiotic “debate” about the need for laws to “protect” Christians from supposed “discrimination”.
The protest also takes place in the context of One Nation’s electoral support in New South Wales jumping to around 8 percent. Hostility to LGBTI rights has been one of the key parts of One Nation’s state election campaign. The increase in support that the party has gained is particularly concerning as it raises the possibility that the weakened Liberals could form a minority government with One Nation. NSW party leader Mark Latham has made it clear that his precondition for such a government would be the passing of his religious discrimination and “parental rights” bills.
The organisers of the 18 March rally are clearly inspired by similar currents overseas. Their talking points are highly derivative of the Christian right in the US Republican Party. So Christian Lives Matter argue that all the problems of the world—corruption, immorality, the sexualisation of children, the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank—are due to the spiritual vacuum at the heart of modern society produced by secularism.
In the minds of these deranged bigots, this has led to a wave of sexual assaults on young people by LGBTI people. Everything from children’s books on witches sold in Big W, to the use of rainbow flags during World Pride, to drag queen events at local libraries—all are signs of this “moral degeneracy”.
Flowing from this, they argue that Christians, and religious people in general, have become a persecuted group. In their eyes, this is because they are the only ones who are standing against the decline of society into insanity. Against the faithful is an alliance of the radical left and multinational corporations, who are waging a campaign to demonise Christians, destroy the traditional family and profit from religion’s demise.
Like their American counterparts, Christian Lives Matter want to reshape the terrain of Australian politics. It can seem like they are not much of a threat because most people support LGBTI rights. However, organised right-wing minorities have often been able to score important victories without ever coming close to getting majority support. Take the US Supreme Court overturning abortion rights last year, despite majority support for them.
They can win important victories because we live in a profoundly anti-democratic, corrupt and conservative political system. Mark Latham, Christian Lives Matter and their ilk understand this.
In Australia, things are not as bad as in the United States because the far right has not been able to build a movement as influential as the Trumpians. However, there are political forces trying to push us in that direction. At the frontline of these forces are the Christian fascists present on the 18 March protest. They have become hardened through years of increasingly radical propaganda and involvement in the anti-lockdown and anti-vax protests of recent times.
We don’t know if this far-right flare-up will fizzle out, take a different form or gain momentum with this new Christian core, but building grassroots left-wing opposition it will be important. That’s why it was positive that several hundred people joined a Community Action for Rainbow Rights counter-protest on the same day. We were significantly outnumbered, but it was a start to building the kind of movement we need to drive the far\right bigots off our streets and out of politics.
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