Ask me whether or not I’d be making a post like this days ago, and I probably would’ve imagined that I wouldn’t have to do so.
Then again, it’s rather careless of me to think that the weekend’s events wouldn’t have happened the way that they did. I actually expected more violence. I suppose that’s a good thing, but being somewhat of a pacifist myself, the ultimate goal is zero violent outbreaks at any rally.
Now, the only reason I’m choosing to publish my thoughts is because for one, I find it cathartic to get it down on ‘paper’, but also because I think that there seems to be a gross misunderstanding amongst people about what actually happened. Initially, I thought it may have just been bigots-dressed-as-normal-people commenting on the page making comments like the ones I’m about to discuss, but now, I’m not so sure.
Now, I’m certainly not the first to admonish those who became violent on the day, and anyone who follows ReclaimWhat and watched the posts on July 18 could attest to that, I even posted videos which some stated implicated anti-racism protestors. We ran rhetoric for weeks prior asking people to remain peaceful, and even in provocative situations (which unfortunately will always happen when dealing with the far-right) to just walk away. I greatly appreciate those who did do this. When you have someone pushing and shoving you, attempting to elicit a response, it takes every fibre of your being not to simply react physically. So, well done to those who didn’t.
Violence does not exist in a vacuum.
What do I mean by that?
There has been a tonne of commentary, not only on our page, but on others, regarding the violence. That is to be expected, it’s one of the ‘stand out’ elements of any rally. It also attracts ugly publicity. But one thing I have noticed more than once, likely from bigots who are again attempting to elicit a reactionary response, is that “the left were violent”.
Violent against who? See, violence doesn’t just ‘happen’. You have motive and means. You have catalyst and action. You have cause and effect. What drove people to do violent things on the day, upon my own perusal of videos, photographs, and my own two eyes, wasn’t just “a random ‘Leftie’ walked up to someone and began beating the living shit out of them.”
Now, before I continue, it seems that I need to stress again that I do not condone the response.
What happened, and many have confirmed this, is that some bigot/neonazi would walk up to the line of anti-racism protestors, and begin provoking them to gain a response. Majority of the time, the response was ridicule or verbal. However, sometimes, the provocative attitude continued, and some people unfortunately lost their temper. Within such a large crowd, a ‘mob mentality’ ensued, and 5-10 people began brawling. It is unfortunate, but it happened.
When vilifying those who were violent, there needs to be an understanding that both parties were at fault. Both the provocateurs, and the responding force.
There also, from the bigot brigade, seems to be a paint-all-with-one-brush attitude against those on the anti-racism side who did respond physically. Now, I can’t expect much better from people who support a movement that tars all Muslims with the one brush, but I was appalled to see this coming from those who believe in the same cause as us. That’s despicable, and I will not tolerate such a generalisation. Our entire movement is based off countering unfair generalisations. That is one of them.
Finally, I would like to put something into perspective. This has been a topic which largely, for many, is something people wish we would just sweep under the rug. That achieves nothing. But I do want to put a contrast out there.
ReclaimWhat abhorred the violence seen on the day from both sides.
ReclaimWhat never advocated violence or even use the “self defence” rhetoric that was seen by the UPF.
In stark contrast, the UPF for weeks rallied their following for violence. It continues today. A quick perusal of their facebook page quite clearly shows admiration and praise for the young boys who threw glass at the medic triage area, and continued to come back and forth intimidating people on the anti-racism side, before smashing a woman’s megaphone and being subsequently arrested.
Thankfully, Victoria Police did charge these hooligans for their actions. On the day, a total of 6 arrests were reported in Melbourne. 4 of those have so far been confirmed as RA/UPF supporters looking for a fight.
However, there are photographs of anti-racism protestors becoming violent against bigots who wandered up Lt Bourke St, attempting to elicit a violence response.
We would never, ever publish those photos admiring what was depicted.
Just keep that in mind before lumping our page and the general anti-racism movement in the ‘violence basket’.
Have faith that we did distribute these amongst groups who were organising these rallies to warn them, but chose not to publish at the time considering it was unverifiable, and somewhat conspiracist in nature.
Well, I now think that’s changed: