‘You will always lose in Melbourne’: fascists fail in Richmond

A fascist mobilisation has been routed in Richmond by a counter-mobilisation of anti-racist activists. It was an important victory.

The fascists, organised by the United Patriots Front (UPF), which describes itself as “a nation wide movement, opposing the spread of Left Wing treason and spread of Islamism”, had declared the event pivotal to rebuilding the fortunes of the far right in Australia.

(The UPF in Melbourne is led by pro-Nazis Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell. The latter’s public postings include the following: “Jews … have introduced and normalized Communism, adultery, homosexuality, atheism … egalitarianism resulting in bastardization and race-mixing”. For more, see here.)

The UPF's aim was to march on Richmond Town Hall, which is emblematic of all that it hates: home to a socialist councillor, and with the Rainbow, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags often flying above. It also is situated in an area of great ethnic diversity.

The 60 UPFers were facilitated by Victoria Police, which disgracefully opened up a section of Bridge Road – which had been shut down by the counter-rally – to give the fascists a clear path to the Town Hall. The Labor state government is responsible for the police force. How this assistance to swastika-emblazoned thugs was allowed is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Labor police minister lets central command act as it chooses when fascists mobilise. If so, it’s another blight on the ALP.

More than just path-clearing assistance, some police officers attacked anti-racist demonstrators. One protester, James Plested, who volunteers as a designer at Red Flag, related: “The cops pulled me off the stairs at Town Hall and then punched me in the face”. Plested suffered a black eye and was treated by medics at the scene.

Yet despite its hired help, the UPF didn’t make it. About 300 determined anti-racists pushed through the police lines at the edge of the hall to block the fascists at the last minute and push them back. The fascists were left in the street, surrounded on two sides and finally were forced to scurry down a laneway, again protected by the ever-helpful police.

Setback

The UPF saw this mobilisation as key in its attempt to build a larger and more coherent fascist organisation and as a building block for anti-Muslim rallies planned for 18-19 July around the country. “Once we do that [31 May] Rally we will take off very quickly”, wrote one of the group’s Facebook moderators earlier this month.

On the eve of the mobilisation the UPF Facebook page was triumphant: “Tomorrow we make history! The Left haven’t been challenged in decades!! Don’t miss it!! and they are shitting themselves!”

New South Wales UPF leader Shermon Burgess in a video post said: “We are going to stick it to these communist traitors … We are the United Patriots Front and we are here. We’re gonna walk right in front of the left and we’re not gonna put up with their garbage.” Neil Erikson boasted: “It’s gonna be a great day … People [have] flown in from every single state in Australia to be here for tomorrow.”

It was important to stop the UPF from carrying out its plan. Despite all the anti-left rhetoric, an emboldened far-right would mean an increasing number of street attacks on Muslims in particular, but also of immigrants, Aboriginal people and minority groups. Indeed, the Age newspaper’s online report on the rally and counter-mobilisation carries a picture of a Swastika-wearing UPF supporter yelling abuse at a Muslim woman prior to the march.

That showed why it was so important to stop the fascists in their tracks. “If several dozen of these racists get together, they unload their hate and violence on anyone in their sights”, said Vashti Kenway, a member of Socialist Alternative and the Campaign against Racism and Fascism. “Stopping them organising and marching is vital. History shows that when we fail to stop them, they grow – and as they grow, so does the number of victims of their hate crimes.”

Despite all their hype and despite all their help, the fascists were beaten in Richmond. And they will be beaten once more if they try it on again. As the banner at the top of the Town Hall stairs declared: “You will always lose in Melbourne”.

[The APF and Reclaim Australia are organising anti-Muslim rallies on 18-19 July in cities across the country. The Campaign against Racism and Fascism and others will be organising counter-demonstrations. Visit the Facebook page for more information.]