The United Patriots Front, which is a Fascist split-off from the far Right Reclaim Australia, held a rally in Richmond on Sunday 31 May. They wanted to rally in front of the Richmond Town Hall, but were opposed by the Campaign Against Racism & Fascism*. The Fascists came off second best.
The UPF seems to have split off from Reclaim Australia in order to put harder, outright Fascist politics upfront, although they’re still apparently embarrassed by the appearance of swastikas at their rallies (it’s a pity some of them have their swastikas tattooed on, since it makes it a bit hard to leave them at home). The Richmond rally was apparently an attempt to launch their group and give them a public face before the nation-wide Reclaim Australia rallies on 18 & 19 July.
Why Richmond Town Hall? That’s an interesting question. Their advertising blamed “the Left” for the failure of their 4 April Reclaim Australia rally and they thought they knew who “the Left” is – the Socialist Party. They had been prominent in the organising for the counter-mobilisation, but they didn’t seem to know who to blame except the Socialist Party and the esteemed Anarchist blogger Slackbastard**. So they plastered the names and pictures of SP leaders over their Facebook site and promised vengeance against them. Since Richmond is known as the base of SP support, the UPF wanted to demonstrate against them. They also objected to the Aboriginal flag flying on the building and, apparently, the rainbow flag (though it doesn’t fly there and they may have confused it with the Torres Strait Islander flag).
The funny thing is, though, that the Socialist Party weren’t going to be there and the Fascists knew it. The SP had advertised that they were holding a public meeting on the same day at the Multicultural Hub, opposite Queen Victoria Market – a couple of kilometres away. The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, from which the SP had withdrawn since after the Reclaim Australia rally on 4 April, therefore had to plan for two contingencies. One was that the Fascists were attempting to rally at a time and place where they thought their enemies couldn’t turn up. The other was that the Richmond rally was a decoy and that the real target was the Multicultural Hub.
Our crew started arriving around 11, although we’d advertised for it to start at 12. We set up at the western end of the Town Hall, knowing that the Fascists were going to be assembling in the park behind it. It wasn’t too long before the coppers arrived, about 100 or so of them. They set up at the middle and the east of the Town Hall and down to Gleadell St at the next corner. It appeared that they were going to provide a cordon to protect the Fascists so they could get to the Town Hall, spew their bile for a few minutes and head off. We had other plans.
The Fascists had advertised their rally for 1 p.m. At about ten past, they started coming down Gleadell St to the east of the Town Hall. There were about 60 or so, though we were later informed that there were also some who didn’t leave the park. The anti-Fascists, who numbered 150-200, had earlier chased a small handful round to the park, then came back and moved down to the intersection. By the time the Fascists marched down Gleadell St, though, most of our forces were near the Town Hall.
The crucial moment came when the Fascists were marching along Bridge Rd under police protection and got to the edge of the Town Hall. At that point, the anti-Fascists surged and broke through parts of the police line. About 8 or 10 Fascists managed to get onto the steps of the east doors of the Town Hall (there are secondary doors both to the east and west of the main ones), with about a dozen coppers stretched in a thin line separating our side from theirs. After about five minutes of pushing and shoving, the Fascists were expelled from the steps. It was particularly pleasing to see Shermon Burgess, the self-described “Great Aussie Patriot”, being forced to retreat with a look of consternation on his face. The coppers withdrew to set up a solid barrier at the edge of the Town Hall. We had prevented the Fascists from reaching their goal.
At this point, a number of Fascists decided that discretion was the better part of valour and left. The rest hung around for a half hour or so, hemmed in on three sides by coppers and the fourth by a Post Office. There were a couple of desultory attempts at making speeches, but they weren’t very audible because we were telling them what we thought of them. Eventually, the coppers opened a gate on a narrow lane between the Town Hall and the Post Office and whisked the Fascists away. There were some very dejected looks on their faces as they departed, not having smashed the Left like they had boasted they would. Once the Fascists were gone, we did a bit of celebratory chanting, listened to a brief speech and then left in groups.
Although the MACG hasn’t yet had a report from the medics, it appears that casualties were few and not severe.
Meanwhile, the SP’s meeting went ahead without trouble. About 150-200 people attended, including a contingent we had despatched to assist in case of need. A couple of eggs were thrown from passing cars at people standing outside – by the timing of the incident, it could have been the work of Fascists who had been escorted away from Richmond.
All up, not a good day for the Master Race.
* The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism is a (so far) informal grouping comprising (in alphabetical order): Anarchist Affinity, Australia Asia Worker Links, the Freedom Socialist Party, the Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne, the Melbourne Anarchist Club, the Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, Melbourne Antifascist Initiative, Radical Women, the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and some unaffiliated radicals. SAlt came late to the party, having greatly underestimated the threat posed by Reclaim Australia and being surprised by the size of their mobilisation on 4 April. Since then, however, they have thrown themselves in wholeheartedly. SAlt supplied a majority of the activists on 31 May, though the combined Anarchists were probably not a great deal fewer.
** Check him out at: http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com . His Antifa Notes make entertaining reading, as well as serving a serious political purpose.
Addendum: The list of groups in CARF has been amended in order to add some that were omitted originally.