The far-right milieu broadly grouped around “Reclaim Australia” intends to rally on July 18 and 19. The 18th will see one rally in Melbourne, with rallies in other cities to follow on the 19th.
The date chosen was doubtless intended to maximize offense, it coincides with this year’s Eid-al-Fitr (the celebrations marking the end of Ramadan).
The two day rally structure was announced by the self-described Great Aussie Patriot and
Cooma based garbage collector , Shermon Burgess (before his public split with other Reclaim Australia organizers back in May). Burgess intends to buttress the Melbourne rally with support of fascists based in Sydney.
It remains difficult to assess the mobilizing power of a far-right milieu whose organization is largely informal and online, however it is clear that last months far-right split has weakened their appeal to the broader “Reclaim Australia” layer of Islamophobic racists.
When Shermon Burgess and a handful of other far-right activists announced they were departing the Reclaim Australia camp to form the United Patriots Front, they clearly believed that the wider layer of racists would follow them. The events in Richmond on May 31 demonstrated that this was not the case.
— Kieran Bennett (@KieranBennett) May 31, 2015
Shermon Burgess has now recognized his mistake. In video after video he now proclaims that “all the patriot groups are united” for the rally on July 18.
From a video earlier this evening:
“On July 18th, at Melbourne Parliament House at 1pm, we are having a rally against radical Islam. Australian’s are fed up, terrorism will only spread if we do not get on top of it. All patriot groups have put their differences aside because we all have to fight this.
Now it took me a long time to get groups to put their differences aside but now we are all allied. And I would like to thank the groups I have written down here who have decided to put their differences aside and all ally as one.
The following groups are: Reclaim Australia, United Patriots Front, Full Blooded Skips, Southern Cross Soldiers, Australian Defense League, Australian Republican Army, Aussie Brotherhood, Rise Up Australia and Australian Patriots Defense Movement.”
Burgess’ remarks about ‘unity’ are interesting in several respects.
Most obviously, there is irony is a call for unity coming from a man who has done more than most to prosecute splits on the far right. Burgess has been quick to denounce as “traitors” all manner of right-wing actors who were insufficiently far-right for his tastes, or who had the temerity to criticize his actions in any way whatsoever.
One early target of Burgess’ wrath was Catholic crazy and admin of the Reclaim Australia Rally – Melbourne Facebook page, Monica Evers. It was a decision I suspect Burgess came to regret; when Burgess first announced that the July 18 rally in Melbourne would be at Parliament house Evers responded with appropriately snarky remarks on the Reclaim Australia pages to the effect “We’ll announce our own rally locations THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”.
The posts have since been removed. Some kind of marriage of necessity has now been stitched up between Evers and Burgess, evidenced by the fact that the Facebook pages run by Evers now appear conciliatory towards Burgess and the fascist UPF. The “Reclaim” pages now promote Burgess’ bus trip from Sydney, and Burgess is now promoting a Facebook event registered to the “Reclaim Australia Rally – Melbourne” page.
Two other things stand out about Burgess’ remarks. One, he is no longer making any attempt to hide his association with obviously violent and fascist projects. In the lead up to April 4 Burgess attempted to conceal his past association with the Australian Defense League project, and attempted to remove the more obscene videos he had released as “Eureka Brigade”.
Now that this deception has been thoroughly blown open by left critics, Burgess is openly boasting ADL and is spruiking his Eureka Brigade work.
It is unclear to what extent this open return to the far-right edge has harmed his ability to communicate to the wider layer of casual Islamophobes. His primary Facebook page has stopped growing, it’s likes have plateaued at around 22,000 and his posts no longer receive the same frenetic interaction they did in the lead up to April 4. At least one individual Burgess had previously touted as part of his “United Patriots Front”, the F’N Aussie, has publicly fallen out with Burgess as a result of his increasingly neo-Nazi stance.
The other fact that is particularly interesting about Burgess’ patriot alliance are the number of participating groups that simply no longer exist.
The Southern Cross Soldiers were a MySpace group which has been defunct since at least 2010. The Australian Defense League has never really existed, despite the antics of self-proclaimed ADL President and military imposter Ralph Ceminara. The Australian Republican Army is a youtube channel with 72 subscribers, and the existence of the Full Blooded Skips is even more ephemeral.
Conversely, there are some notable absences from Burgess’ most recent video. Burgess is organizing a supporters bus that is intended to bring additional hard support from the far-right scene in Sydney to the Melbourne rally on July 18.
The people on such a bus will not be coming from some MySpace group, instead they are almost certainly going to be drawn from the milieu around Jim Saleam’s Australia First Party, and their more obviously swastika licking friends in the Hammerskins and Squadron 88. Burgess might be ready to own the ADL clown Ralph Ceminara, he still has the brains to avoid public association with this lot.
Australia First Party will support the next round of Reclaim Australia rallies in July.
— Australia FirstParty (@AustFirstParty) May 6, 2015
The far-right split in early May was certainly good for a laugh, and it gutted the ability of the UPF to mobilize forces for Richmond on May 31. Fascist agitators like Burgess do not yet have strength to issue a call-out on their own authority. The papered unity that Burgess has repeatedly announced is an attempt to undo the damage of the past two months, he is seeking to convince the wider layer of racists that came out on April 4 to return.
It is not yet clear how successful Burgess has been with his regroupment propaganda. I sincerely doubt he can totally reverse the ill-will generated by a public and acrimonious split with a few youtube videos. The far-right gathering that assembles in Melbourne on July 18 will likely be smaller than the April 4 assemblage, but on the flip side the apparent cooperation with other far-right actors could result in a more coherent gathering that is more capable of organized violence.
The wider Reclaim milieu is fixated on the Muslim community, if they come out on July 18 they will have Australian Muslims squarely in their sites.
The fascist activists gathered around Shermon Burgess in the UPF have a wider plan in which Muslim’s are merely the first target. The UPF and friends are just as fixated on ‘the left':
Why are we focusing on Melbourne in particular for July 18? Because we need to win Melbourne. And why do we need to win Melbourne. For starters it is a strong hold, it is a left wing strong hold. Because the movement has been built up and no one has tried to stop it. No one. … Together we can break them.
Look at the Reclaim Australia rally back on April the 4th. We outnumbered the left wing in Sydney. We outnumbered the left wing in Brisbane. We outnumbered the left wing in Perth. Completely. Totally. They didn’t have a chance in hell.
We owned them. But they still have one small pocket of the country in Melbourne. And we are going to take that pocket of the country. Because we got more numbers than them.
So I’ve talked to my boys in the UPF. And we’ve decided what we’re going to do. Not only are we going to get all the patriot groups in Melbourne to the July 18th rally where all patriot groups will be united. But we’re also organising charter buses to get patriots from Canberra, and Sydney, and other places like that.
If we win Melbourne, we win the country. Because that’s where all the left wing propaganda comes out of.
The streets down there are communist red. Soon they will be patriotic red white and blue.
To the fascists of the UPF the traitorous enemy extends (in no particular order) to include those unions defending the rights of migrant workers, sex and gender diverse communities, the student movement, the environment movement, refugees, and anyone who differs from or disagrees with their vision of a violently “patriotic” misogynist flag waving ANZAC worshiping Australia. A quote from Martin Niemöller springs to mind.
A response to Reclaim, the UPF, and any other fascists dumb enough to show their faces in public is being prepared. I am the first to acknowledge that this response is far from complete, the fact that this response has been limited to a few “usual suspect” (and overwhelmingly white) left groupings is a significant weakness, and “a good shirt-fronting” is only ever a reactive strategy to a particular expression of far-right political organization.
None the less, I challenge anyone to make the case for “leaving this to the police”. If the far-right are able to openly organize, recruit and cohere, we will all reap the results.
Sam Oldham, ‘Reclaiming history from the angry white male’.
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Photo credit for featured image: Wardenclyffe Photography.