On Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July, an Anti Islamic group called “Reclaim Australia” organised rallies across the country. These were held in Melbourne, Newcastle, Rockhampton, and Sydney. The rallies were a culmination of anti-Islamic sentiment on social media, wherein hateful language is often used to rally against Halal certification.
The Facebook groups speak to some alarming attitudes, with one commenter writing “boot them all back to Mecca”. In the rally, there were several men sporting Swastika tattoos, an emblem of a section of the Australian community who do not support multiculturalism nor the right to religious freedom.
I attended a counter rally in Melbourne, to show my support for the Islamic community living within Australia. At first, the large crowd that had amassed reassured me. I presumed we were united in our stand against those who tried to suppress multiculturalism. However, it slowly became evident that some members of the rally had less-than-pure intentions. Several men wore Guy Fawkes masks, and one man wore a jacket that had inscribed upon it the slogan “Kill Rich People”. Despite this, I marched with the group and chanted “You’ll Always Lose In Melbourne”.
After marching into the street adjacent to the Victorian Parliament and coming into contact with the Victorian Police I then became less enthused and more concerned about my comrades. A known member of the Reclaim Australia Group was spotted in our number and a man with a megaphone shouted out his location and a group flocked to him and began to assault him. After this, I walked to a different section of the rally where a line was formed and if a person who looked to be of Reclaim Australia elk tried to get past, they would be stopped physically. I witnessed an elderly man of maybe 70 be kicked and punched, by some who looked no older than 25. The elderly man did not do anything other than try to get past and join the Reclaim Australia crowd and I saw him limp off after this encounter. This occurred at least ten times and after witnessing a group of seven men attack a lone figure for trying to enter the Reclaim group, I left the rally altogether.
I support and love our Islamic community and feel so strongly about this I attended a rally to show my support for them. However, I also believe in the right to freedom of speech. This allows for bad ideas to be discussed and argued at events like this, hopefully with reason and empathy winning the day. However, when the opposing side is assaulted and attacked by groups of people I think the message stops being about promoting multiculturalism and fighting racism and becomes about the few who can’t resist picking a fight for the sake of their testosterone.