Anti-racist rally confronts bigots

A 100 strong anti-racist rally was held in Brisbane on August 6. The rally was called in response to a protest organised by the far-right racist group, Australian Patriots Defence Movement (APDM). The APDM takes its inspiration from the racist English Defence League – the same group that inspired the gunman who slaughtered nearly 100 people last month in Norway.

The anti-racist rally outnumbered the APDM by around three to one and held its ground despite a number of protesters being threatened by the racists. The rally kept up spirited chanting for two hours throughout the APDM gathering – “Muslims are welcome, racists are not”; “Say it loud, say it clear, racists are not welcome here”.

Rally organiser, Kathy Newnam told the rally “The APDM tries to couch their racism in the language of rights and liberty. Their gathering today even dares to claim that they are in favour of women’s rights. They are condemning Muslim women who wear the burqa and make the most disgusting sexist and vile threats against them and then they claim to be on the side of women! There is little doubt that these are the same people who carry out their threats on the streets – harassing and threatening women who wear the hijab or the burqa.

“Their vile and inhumane rhetoric is designed to appeal to xenophobia and ignorance. It is designed to dehumanise Muslim people and create an atmosphere of hatred and fear.

“Anyone who gives any ground to this vile racism in the name of defending women is a fraud. Those that support laws against the burqa supposedly in the name of women’s rights are an absolute disgrace. They are happy to shut women who wear the burqa out of public spaces, out of education. And it has nothing to do with women’s rights and absolutely everything to do with racism and a colonial mentality of thinking that they know what is best.

“Anyone who lines up with these frauds, anyone who gives breathing space for these racist bigots also bears responsibility for the racist violence that is being carried out under the name of ‘rights’ and ‘liberty’.

“There is violence and harassment against Muslim people that is taking place every day – physical violence, verbal attacks and the constant threat of violence. This threat is created by the racist anti-Muslim sentiment that is consistently whipped up by governments and by the corporate media and it is groups like the APDM that deepen this threat by their appeal to extreme racism and xenophobia – and trying to give organised form to this threat.

“We only need to remember the 2005 Cronulla riots to realise just how real this threat is. Encouraged again by government and media racism, 5000 thugs took to the streets of Cronulla and went on a violent rampage, attacking anyone they considered to be of Middle Eastern appearance.

“That day the world saw Australian racism – but while it does not spill out on the streets every day, it is something that is always there. That riot didn’t spring from no-where – it was the product of a long history of racism and xenophobia. Racism has a 223 year long history in this country and it has very real human impacts every single day. It’s ironic, though no co-incidence that the same racists who organise to deny the rights of refugees and migrants in Australia are also the loudest opponents of Aboriginal land rights.”

Newnam also stated that while the anti-racist rally was called in response to the APDM, it was also to make a stand against all racism and xenophobia, stating that “right now the federal government is fanning the flames of racism and bigotry in its racist rhetoric and treatment of refugees. It is Gillard and Bowen who are responsible for giving the APDM racists the confidence to crawl out from under their rocks”.

Refugee Action Collective activist, Duncan Hart also spoke to the rally about the racism behind the treatment of refugees by the Federal government and about the inhumanity of the mandatory detention system. Hart encouraged those at the rally to support the upcoming refugee rights protest that will be held to mark Tampa Day (see <http://www.rac-qld.org> for details).

The rally also heard from Qld Greens member Dr Libby Connors and performances by the Combined Unions Choir and local singer-songwriter Steve Towson.

Stop the War Collective activist and long time anti-racist campaigner Adrian Skerritt explained the connection between the rise of anti-Muslim racism and the campaigns of governments and the corporate media that attempt to justify the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Skerritt also highlighted the importance of the fight against far right groups like APDM because as the economic crisis deepens, then racist scapegoating will also intensify.