Making them lose in Melbourne – a quick guide to staying safe & being effective

If you’re planning on going out to oppose “Reclaim Australia” & their fascist brethren the “United Patriots Front” this weekend, it’s totally legitimate to feel a bit anxious or worried about what the day might have in store. Especially considering the time & energy the UPF have devoted in the last 6 weeks to making ridiculous videos about how they’re gonna “smash the lefties” etc.

alwayslose

Being nervous or concerned by nonsense like this is perfectly understandable, particularly if this is the first time you’ve done something like this, but even those amongst us who are more experienced, these feelings aren’t uncommon. They’re natural and having them doesn’t make you a bad antifascist. They can, however, be managed & overcome in a few ways. We hope that this quick primer will provide you with a few tips and resources about how to be keep one another safe, how to be effective and (hopefully) have a bit of fun running the racists out of town.

Get organised:

If you’re not already involved in organising against Reclaim Australia/UPF there’s still time. Search for the counter rally page in your city, read up about what’s going on and consider making contact with the organisers to answer any questions you might have.

Here is a copy of our call out for the day. Please share it round, feel free to download, print it off, hand it out, post it up etc.

For those of us in Melbourne, the following places have a bunch of information you might want to check out:

Talk to your friends, your family and anyone else about what you want to do, and get them to come along with you. The more of us there is, the easier & more fun this is all going to be.

Have a plan:

  1. Check out the transport options, figure out with your friends how you’re gonna get there on the day and then stick to that plan. Getting out of bed on time really matters on days like this! Also sort out how you are going to get home in advance, and have a back up plan in case of changing circumstances.
  2. Know where you’re going & what the protest area looks like. Look at a map & try to memorise the layout of the streets around it. Figure out how you will move between transport & the rally area.
  3. Dress appropriately for the conditions in your city. Whatever the weather, hats and sunglasses are going to be useful if you’re standing outside all day & they can also help protect your identity (if that’s something you are concerned about). It’s also a good idea to stash a change of top in your back pack, in case you want to change it up on your way home
  4. Consider removing piercings, jewellery & avoiding where possible loose clothing that can be grabbed. Also, if you have long hair, keep it tied back and out of your face
  5. Bring water, low GI snacks that are easy to eat on the fly (fruit, nuts, muesli bars, pack some sandwiches), sunscreen, umbrella/raincoat, a bit of cash, photo ID and any medications you require (in their original packaging so the cops don’t give you shit)

Get informed:

There’s plenty of really useful stuff on the internet about preparing for an action like this. At the very least, it would be worth checking out Fitzroy Legal Service’s Activists Rights Handbook for basic stuff about your legal rights when on a political demonstration or action.

We also think this guide from South London Antifascists is useful, although not all the points they raise are relevant to activists in Australia.

Also important to have a look at is the Melbourne Street Medic Collective’s website. They have an extensive list of resources available covering many different aspects of political action including preparation, staying safe & self care.

Safety & strength in numbers:

This is pretty common sense really but it is worth repeating.

Any time you got out on an action, no matter what sort, we reckon it’s worth buddying up. This will not only help you communicate, co-ordinate and get things done on the day, but it will keep you all safe. Pick a buddy, stick with them, and co-ordinate amongst a broader group of people so everyone can check in & be accounted for.

Whatever dangers do exist when dealing with the far-right can be effectively minimised on the day provided we stick together & look out for one another. If you don’t have a buddy or a group of contacts to coordinate with, then ensure you to get to the event before the scheduled start time, stick with the crowd & try to make some friends.

Remember that solidarity is contagious. If you are feeling nervous, chances are someone else is too. Speak up, reach out & support one another.

A few points about Nazis:

Given that every nationalist, white-supremacist & neo-Nazi organisation in the country (including the Australia First Party, the Australian Defence League, the Southern Cross Soldiers & a bunch of other patriotic acronyms) is being encouraged to attend the Reclaim Australia rallies, consider the following points:

  1. It is important to consider the potential threat posed by hardcore nationalists without overstating it. Though they claim to be the “master race”, and love to act real tough, they’re rather less impressive in person. Some are individually dangerous but it’s easy to avoid this danger with a few simple precautions. The most important precaution is to stick together, work together & look after one another!
  2. Know your enemy. For folks in Melbourne, this handy little bingo card of fascist mugshots may come in handy. Additionally, be aware of the fact that two separate organisations will be rallying in Melbourne on the day: “Reclaim Australia” at 11am & the “United Patriots Front” at 1pm. Generally speaking, expect the “Reclaim” crowd to be less confrontational & more interested in making itself palatable to the right-wing politicians & media outlets from which it emerged in the first place. The UPF on the other hand are all about trying to start a ruck, and should be treated as the more dangerous of the two rallies.
  3. Different towns in Australia have different levels of far-right activity, so it really depends where you are as to what flavour of racist bonehead you might be dealing with. Some general rules still apply though: if you’re walking down the street and a gang of boofy blokes wearing flag-capes comes towards you, consider walking somewhere else.
  4. Current fuhrer of the Australia First Party (formerly the Australian Nazi Party) “Dr” Jim Saleam has issued a series of dictats to his swastika-licking mates about how they ought to behave themselves on the day. They’re encouraging people to leave the nazi getup & sieg-heiling at home, wrap themselves in the Aussie flag (presumably to cover up any fascist tattoos) & spread the word about good ole Adolf in a gentle, less threatening way. Basically, they’re going to try to be on their best behaviour.
  5. Fascists on di attack? We will film them back! Though self-appointed leader of Reclaim Australia United Patriots Front Shermon “shit on a mosque” Burgess is trying to play down his connections to racists, fascists and boneheads around ‘Straya, we are well aware of the company he keeps. Unfortunately, this information doesn’t seem to matter much to his followers, but it is still important to identify the Nazis on the day, both to keep people safe, but also because every nail in the coffin helps.
  6. I know we’ve said it a few times already, but really the most important thing you can do to stay safe is to look out for one another & stick together. There is no more important time to do this than when the rally breaks up & everyone goes home. Fascists are bullies, but they’re also cowards & some may hang around in the city to look to pick a fight. We can protect ourselves from this threat by making sure we move in a group (to the station etc), with purpose & with a clear idea of where we’re going. Know the location, know the exit routes & stick to your plan.

Be careful around the police:

It doesn’t matter what you actually think about the police, love em or hate em, you will definitely have to deal with them on the day. The Activists Rights Handbook is a much more rigorous & comprehensive guide for dealing with the law than we have room for here, but here are a few tips:

  1. They are likely to be the definitive force on the day. Reclaim round one was an absolute PR disaster for them, and that loss of legitimacy was only compounded by our victory over the UPF at Richmond Town Hall in May. Expect an awful lot of them, and don’t expect them to be playing nice this time around.
  2. Don’t talk to them unless you are detained or arrested. You don’t have to speak to the cops, and no matter how nice they are, the reason they speak to you is to gain information that they may attempt to use against you or someone else. Better to be safe and say nothing at all.
  3. Elect a police liaison to negotiate on your crew’s behalf. Instead of allowing the cops to decide who they want to put pressure on, choose a confident person whose job it is to communicate with the plod if/when it is necessary. (Melbourne AF understand the counter-rally organisers have already organised police liaisons, but it’s worth considering for your own smaller group too.)
  4. Don’t waste your time trying to reason with them about why Nazis shouldn’t get to parade around in public. They either don’t care, or it’s their job to not care. If you consider the way Victoria Police bent over backwards to faciliate the UPF’s failed attempt to rally at Richmond Town Hall in May, it should be pretty clear that an organisation as corrupt and institutionally racist as the police force cannot be used as a tool to confront racism.
  5. Use your common sense, keep focused & don’t do anything silly. By all means defend yourself & your friends if attacked, but initiating a toe-to-toe boxing match with the boneheads somewhere as public as Spring Street is a less than wonderful idea. Collective action is what makes antifascism effective, not individual bravado. Remember, the UPF exist pretty exclusively to come “smash” us “traitors”. Denying them the opportunity to do this on their terms drives them batty & causes them to do all sorts of silly things. We can’t rely on the police to keep us safe, but we can laugh our arses off when they start getting nicked for kicking off with the coppers.

Have fun:

For the most part, the kind of muppets who will drag themselves along to a rally about the “evils of Islam” are pitiful, pathetic and ridiculous. Make good use of that fact. It’s likely that most of their attendees are so attached to their silly conspiracy theories that they are well beyond rational debate. But they are not beyond ridicule! Blast them with music, sing them songs, chant them down. Dance your ass off to anti-racist tunes, explain to passers by why they’re plonkers, bring along a vuvuzela.. whatever!

The most effective forms of resistance involve everyone participating how they’re best able, so bring your skills, creativity and your friends and let’s make a go of it!

Stand together, stay safe, ‘¡No pasarán!

See you on the streets,

Melbourne Antifascists (///)


(This stay-safe guide has been gratefully adapted from a piece published in the lead up to the first Reclaim Australia rally by our comrades at Anarchist Affinity)

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