Rally against racism protesters clash with Reclaim Australia protestors at Federation Square. Photo: Chris Hopkins Protesters clash with Reclaim Australia protesters at Federation Square under a huge police presence. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Police stand guard at Federation Square as warring protest groups clash. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Hundreds of people washed spit from their faces on Saturday evening after an ugly stand-off at Federation Square between supporters of Reclaim Australia, an anti-Islamic movement, and No Room For Racism, a coalition of trade union, community and left-wing groups.
It’s been reported that these were competing rallies. Those reports are wrong. What occurred at Federation Square was trench warfare — with police on horseback holding the armies apart.
Because the police had been quick to isolate the core Reclaimer group on the forecourt of the SBS building, hundreds of late-comers were left to mingle with the No Roomers. Mingling often meant one-on-one screaming matches that occasionally broke out into pushing and shoving. Now and then a stray punch or two was thrown.
A Federation Square spokesman estimated 3000 people — many carrying many placards, some of them droll: “You keep your Burqua, I’ll keep my clitoris” — went at it noisily for more than three hours.
Organiser Mel Gregson said No Room for Racism was formed with the express purpose of shutting down the 16 rallies across Australia planned by Reclaim Australia. The Reclaimers, on their facebook page, describe their mission as “We as patriotic Australians need to stand together to stop halal tax, sharia law & islamisation.”
Betweeen noon and 3pm, The Sunday Age witnessed a prolonged venting of frustrations, half-baked ideas and outright hatred. In the end, it wasn’t Muslims being hated, though — it was the white people from each side incensed by the position and taunting of the other.
A young woman taking on two heavyset middle-aged men — one of them with a shaved tattooed head — shrieking, “It’s not Islam, it’s the partriarchy!”
The men, visibly shaking with rage, let fly with their fears of the country being taken over and their taxes funding terrorism (via dole payments).
It ended with the young woman screaming: “I’ve just been pushed by a white man.”
After vainly trying to gather witnesses and get the police attention, she linked arms with a wall of No Roomers that had formed in front of the police lines to keep outlying Reclaimers from joining the main group.
Two middle-aged women, both wrapped in the Austraiian flag, both insisting they weren’t racists – “just concerned ” – were assailed by a scrawny young woman who called them c—s at least as dozen times.
In fact the prevailing, relentlessly megaphoned message from the No Roomers to the Reclaimers was “f— off.”
One middle-aged man, a Reclaimer, was wearing a face-mask of the sort favoured by IS combatants. How come? “I don’t want any retribution from the Muslims.” He believed terrorists would come for him because he’d attended the protest.
Sitting cheerily in the middle of the chaos, literally dancing in their seats, were Emily, 28, and Melissa, 32, from Brunswick. They’d brought an amplifier and iPod and were playing upbeat songs of togetherness, including the Warumpi Bands’s White Fella, Black Fella. Their placard read: “We’d rather listen to our music than your racist comments.”
Said Melissa: “We just want to live in a country that accepts diversity.”
About 2pm, four Muslims fellows arrived wearing T-shirts that proclaimed their religion a peaceful enterprise. Waseemra Razui explained: “We’ve come to tell people that this is all a big misunderstanding.”
Two men and a woman were arrested during the protests.
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