On April 4, racists and neo-Nazis congregated nation-wide for the Reclaim Australia (RA) protests, in an attempt to ‘regain’ an Australia with the ethnic and religious diversity of Neighbours circa 1985. After attending the Anti-Racist Counter Rally, I sold my soul to the devil and visited the RA Rally at Martin Place in order to gauge just how fucked up some Australians can be.
Arriving at Martin Place, I entered a sea of Islamophobic and racist placards stating “Ban the Burqa,” “Assimilate or Leave,” “No to Sharia,” and my favourite, “Our Women are Equal,” a slogan obviously not written by a woman. An entire speech was devoted to the issue of Halal certification, with protesters chanting “Bring Vegemite Back”. These Aussie patriots are so Islamophobic that they cannot consume any Halal certified products, not even Vegemite, which contains no meat. The stupidity in the protesters’ views was staggering, especially their belief that the fees for Halal certification support terrorism. Unaware of the irony, white protestors appropriated the Indigenous flag and incorporated it into their demands to reclaim Australia.
While at the rally, I spoke to a protester who bragged that he partook in the Cronulla Riots, and said that if he had his way he would “get a missile launcher and shoot all ‘em muzzies.” When speaking about his experience at the Dubai International Airport, he told me that he wanted “to concrete over the whole lot of ‘em.” These were not fringe opinions at the RA rally.
However, I also spoke to an Egyptian-Italian man, one of the only non-white protesters, who despite being in the vicinity of people with swastika tattoos, appeared shocked when I mentioned the racist comments I had heard. When I asked why he was attending a rally which opposed multi-culturalism, he replied that he was only opposed to “Islamic extremism” and that he didn’t agree with the racist sentiments of his fellow protesters. Despite this, he was an active RA supporter and one of the more animated protesters. This is due to the far-Right movement has achieved broad ranging appeal through their populist agenda and by co-opting the language used by government and media in discussion of terror threats and asylum seekers. Active members who do not fully identify with the movement’s racism, nonetheless, empower it through their involvement.
Whilst concerns about the rise of fascism in the wake of the RA rallies may be overstated, the truth is that in a political climate where the ALP is seen as bourgeois, where far-Right parties have populist agendas, and where racism and Islamophobia are increasingly normalised by the press and government, there already exists the framework for a strong ultra-nationalist right in Australia.