UPF In Bendigo; Making Them Lose on Away Days

We’ve already been through a few rounds with both the UPF and Reclaim Australia, and now we’re back at it again in Bendigo. The 10-10-15 ‘Global Day of Action Against Islam” is being used by the patriots to continue to have a whine about the mosque in Bendigo. As we’ve said before, if you’re planning on going out to oppose 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. The last time the UPF did outnumber us in Bendigo, and while we stood up against them they claimed the victory. This time it won’t be so easy for them.

Bendigo residents have formed a devoted group called Bendigo Action Coalition that’s done a ton of useful on the ground organising to spearhead local resistance to the thugs. As usual the UPF have been making noises about violence and confrontation, and conflating this with their own tricksies of creating fake anti-fascist propaganda to stir up resentment for the antifascists.

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 UPF there’s still time. Search for the counter rally page in your city (Bendigo Action Coalition in Bendigo, Campaign Against Racism and Fascism in Melbourne), 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 the BAC call out for the day. Please share these around, 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. The more safe we will all be, too.

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! Rule number one of antifascism; don’t have a hangover! Also sort out how you are going to get home in advance, and have a backup plan in case of changing circumstances. There are limited trains out of Bendigo, so make sure you check the train times. Including backup times in case we’re around for longer than planned.
  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. Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are going to be useful as it’s going to be quite hot and were going to be outside all day. Added bonus is 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. Given the recent developments in policing these rallies, clothing that covers your body well, scarfs, sunnies etc are extra useful in protecting yourself from pepperspray too.
  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.

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:

The UPF are the latest core of nazi thugs organising these rallies, but they’ve gotten support from the Australian Defence League, and made ties with local “Rights For Bendigo Residents”, meaning a turnout of local folk possibly looking for a scrap. Bendigo has experience organised anti-mosque agitation for a while. 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!

  1. Know your enemy. If you check the Melbourne Antifascist Info page, there are a few ‘collectors cards’ identifying the main fascist thugs.
  2. The “United Patriots Front” are meeting at “2.30pm.” The UPF are all about trying to start a ruck, and should be treated as serious and confrontational. The locals on their side may also be keen for a punch on, but they might also be more hesitant and confused as they have less experience. Also, don’t risk pissing off local supporters because you misidentify them, but remain aware that right-wingers might try and integrate with our crowd, too.
  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. Fascists on the attack? We will film them back! The UPF have consistently attempted to distance themselves from the overt Nazis in their group (like old mate Swastika head), even by lame propaganda like kicking ‘Ross the Skull’ off their bus from Sydney last time. We are well aware of the company they keep. 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.
  5. That being said, if you’re taking photos of anti-fascists don’t go posting it online without the consent of the people you’ve photographed. Avoiding identification is really important to some anti-fascists more at risk, and depending what you capture you could be aiding the police. Remember, historically the police crackdown harder on anti-fascists than racists, and that trend isn’t about to change.
  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. This happened last time so make sure you’ve arranged plans to get home safely. 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. Last time they mobilised large numbers from Melbourne, and they did play nicer than on July 18, however it’s worth noting they pulled out the capsicum spray again and though it was aimed at the UPF, it could just as easily be us. They have consistently facilitated the fascists rallies and if our intention is to No Platform the UPF, we are immediately at odds with the Police. 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. If you see someone in a mask, don’t give them shit. It’s their choice and their safety and anonymity is important. It’s just as valid as whatever tactic you have chosen to employ. People have a lot of good reasons for masking up, you can read a piece here where we deal with it. Some antifascist mates of ours from Bendigo have also produced a sweet leaflet we host here (bonus; it explains reasons some people may/have chosen to burn the flag) dealing with the same issues.
  4. 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. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to – go to the BAC/CARF marshals first and find the police liaison.
  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 public 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.
  6. On that topic, we’re not telling you what action you can and can’t take… but remember, if you get arrested in another city, that’s really hard on your comrades who have to wait around and bail you out.
  7. On top of that point, the most important political point right now is that we help galvanise support in Bendigo for a serious, confrontational anti-racism that will No Platform hate speech. Helping BAC pull off a good rally is the priority.

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, not to mention misguided. 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! As BAC are pitching the rally; this is going to be a loud and colourful event!

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 a couple of times by Melbourne Antifascists from a piece published in the lead up to the first Reclaim Australia rally.)

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