by Katie Coulthard | @coulthard_katie
Weeks after their last clash with Reclaim Australia, No Room For Racism protesters gathered in Melbourne’s City Square for a “peaceful speak out” against discrimination.
Ready to quell potential violence, police lined Swanston Street. The mounted unit and riot squad appeared to be on standby. An officer said they were expecting around 400 participants, but approximately 150 turned out.
— Christopher Hire (@christopherhire) August 7, 2015
Unimpressed with Victoria Police’s behaviour last protest, supporters were highly critical of “forces of the state”, accusing police of acting as “private security for neo-Nazis”.
Several speakers called for an end to discrimination, particularly against Indigenous populations, citing the recent Adam Goodes controversy.
Faseeha Hashmi, a young student who is part of the No Room for Racism movement, joined Jacob Rumbiak, A Free Papua campaigner and other speakers to demand an end to the Abbott government’s immigration policies and Islamophobia.
“Islam is a peaceful religion. What’s your problem? No-one is here to take over the country,” one speaker said.
Despite being outnumbered by the anti-racism group, one man was identified as an United Patriot Front supporter (UPF). After being noticed by supporters, the man was confronted and a heated argument broke out.
The rally was temporarily interrupted and speakers encouraged the crowd to taunt the man with chants of “Fuck off, Nazi scum”.
Police eventually escorted him down Swanston Street to the cheers of anti-racism protesters, however speakers stressed to stay together as a group for safety reasons, “in case he’s rung his mates”.
— Kieran Bennett (@KieranBennett) August 7, 2015
Yarra City Councillor Stephen Jolly, a member of the Socialist Party also spoke to explain his “”alternate vision for Australians”. Jolly’s appearance follows news Victoria Police charged a 38-year-old Moe man for making death threats against the councillor.
He said the speak out was also a “victory rally” to celebrate the last protest, which saw more anti-racism protestors in attendance than Reclaim Australia members.
Jolly said the targeted abuse he has received through social media is a “form of terrorism”.
“It’s like Central America, where you knock off your opponents. We can have disagreements but let’s keep violence out of it,” he said.
The crowd featured men, women and young children all to support the collective.
Charlotte, an international studies student, said it’s important to come out to support human rights.
“We need to embrace everyone equally and respectfully, at the moment that’s not happening,” she said.
Others, like 20-year-old Ethan, joined the gathering after hearing the speakers from across the road. He agrees with the No Room For Racism campaign and felt it was necessary to show his support.
“Everyone has the right to a home, and Australia’s a pretty good home for everyone,” he said.
The rally concluded with protesters chanting loudly “we’ll be back” as they dispersed back into the CBD streets.