This was posted to us as a post-rally recap of the Canberra Rally Against Racism.
Written by Stephen Samara-Wickrama
On the 19th of July 2015 at 11am, anti-racists and anti-fascists converged outside Questacon in Canberra to counter the rally being held by Reclaim Australia, supported by Stand Up For Australia and Restore Australia. Shortly after arriving scouts were periodically sent over to the opposition’s rally point in order to deduce their numbers and movements.
Members of Socialist Alternative and Antifa spoke to the growing anti-racist crowd before we mobilised. Another speaker was a lovely Muslim woman named Diana, who braved torrents of hate to stand side by side with us.
At about 11:30 the scouts reported that the fascist mob had marched into a nearby carpark. Our crowd, by then at least 100 strong, marched into the carpark to stop the fascists from marching further. We were met by a wall of 15 AFP officers who stopped us from marching further.
Chants were lobbied across the carpark from both sides, and it was clear that we outnumbered them significantly. I witnessed one fascist run into our group and start throwing punches at an anti-racist. Initially a few people from our side threw punches back to defend our comrade before the police moved in and arrested the “patriot”.
Roughly twenty minutes later the fascists started marching up King Edward Terrace and onto Commonwealth Avenue. Due to the police restricting our access to the road, we had to jump through hedges on the Terrace in order to confront the bigots. We marched to the top of Commonwealth Avenue, completely blocking their march as well as the Sunday traffic (which had backed up for about 500m or more).
The police formed a line in front of us, bringing their vehicles in to block our progress in front and behind our group. After a standoff which lasted around ten minutes, the officers ushered us to the side of the road and allowed the bigots to march right on up to Parliament House. We were directed to an alternate route near Federation Mall, where we were allowed to march up to Parliament but still not allowed to get anywhere near the racists. At all times we were kept at least 15m from their group.
We encircled the fascists on the lawns of Parliament House. Not long after we arrived, I turned around to see a pack of five or six Reclaim thugs hurtling towards the back of our lines. People were pushed and shoved and the thugs threw a couple of punches before being issued by police through our crowd and back to their side.
People from both sides stood up to speak, at times arguing with microphones and loudspeakers. The best speaker from our side was arguably Diana Abdel-Rahman, a Muslim woman who had shown great courage and love just by being there. Over the microphone, she begged the Reclaim Australia bigots to come and speak to her, to hug her and learn about Islam. One of the Reclaim women agreed to let Diana come over for a discussion, but the police would not allow Diana to walk over to the other side. At first she was told that she would be allowed to speak to the Reclaimers at the side of the rally, and I accompanied her along with a Muslim man to the far left side of our group. One police officer said to Diana “If you go over there, I have no hesitations about handcuffing you and throwing you in prison.”
As the speeches continued, I was honoured by the chance to speak to Diana about her faith and the day’s proceedings. Her community is running an Eid-al-Fitr festival at Exhibition Park next Sunday, which will absolutely be attending. Diana told me that she had spoken to one of the Reclaimers earlier, and told him that Muslims are not violent, hateful people, and that she loved being Australian as much as she loved being a Muslim. The man she spoke to actually agreed to check out the Eid-al-Fitr Festival after realising that Muslims are normal, pleasant, loving people.
After another half an hour or so, it looked like the fascists were packing up and leaving. Our cheers and cries of victory were further inspired by Roxley Foley from the Tent Embassy holding aloft a sign which read “NOT YOURS TO RECLAIM”. This started a roaring chant of “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”, a defining moment of the day.
As we walked back down to the parking lot in loosely-knit groups, a few of us noticed that a number of bigots were driving around the lot hassling stragglers. A hundred metres further, we noticed that Diana and a few other people were speaking to some boneheaded Reclaim thugs, who for once appeared calm. We set our gear down and began chatting about the protest, but within about five minutes we heard the same thugs begin to shout at Diana and the people with her. I gathered my friends and we moved in to both protect our people and break up a fight if it occurred. The thugs were screaming threats at everyone around them. One of them marched up to my good friend Rob and punched him in the face. Thankfully the AFP were nearby and the ABC had a camera trained on the incident as it unfolded. Although he certainly could have and might have liked to, Rob very professionally restrained himself from fighting back.
We told the police and the G-Men about the assault, and they told us to wait while they spoke to the instigators. We watched from across the parking lot as they spoke to the thugs, and then the thugs just climbed into their dusty 4WD and left. The police told Rob that the video and photographic evidence wasn’t sufficient enough to make an arrest, despite the fact that a clear picture of us and the assailant mid-punch surfaced on the ABC’s website within a matter of hours.
All in all, today’s counter-protest was a complete success. We outnumbered Reclaim Australia significantly, and despite opposition from the police we made our message clear to them – YOU WILL NEVER WIN IN CANBERRA.
All around Australia this weekend, racists and fascists have been outnumbered by the left wing. Reclaim Australia Canberra publicly admitted defeat on their Facebook page in the afternoon, while the United Patriots Front declared victory in Melbourne despite their pathetic turnout.
If they want to hold more rallies, we will be there and again we will outnumber them. We do not need violence to express our animosity towards racism and fascists, while the racists and fascists will always resort to violence when logic and reason falls upon their dead ears.
Thank you to everyone who came to the counter-protest. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to a few of you, and even forming friendships with a few of you. Our solidarity and our passion is their defeat.