Reclaim Australia burst onto the national stage five years ago this month as possibly one of the most significant short-lived protest movements in Australian history. Across the country in over a dozen towns and cities ordinary patriotic Australians outraged by what they considered to be the deliberate deafness of successive Australian governments to the issues of Islamic immigration and Halal certification took to the streets.
They came in their thousands proudly waving their Australian flags as an implicit provocation to the Australia hating left. Mums and dads stood with grannies and children, elderly Polynesian church ladies stood with tattooed Anglo tradies. For a group with no centre and no organised activist base to spring up from overnight, to have such a host arise from the spring of social media and to provoke such a committed and passionate response created a shock that echoed like a thunderclap across the political spectrum. Mainstream figures on both left and right struggled to understand what was going on.
One group however, the Anarchists and Marxists of the Australian extreme left, thought they knew exactly what was going on. They saw in these protests a chance to improve their own political fortunes. And it was on April the fifth in Melbourne (the stronghold of Australian left wing extremism) in the modernist monstrosity of Federation Square that the first and greatest clash between the extreme left and Reclaim Australia took place.
Federation square is a misshapen mishmash of geometric shapes that squats beside the Yarra river like a poisonous toad (in stark contrast to the graceful architecture of nearby Flinders Street station and Princes Bridge). Being a central landmark it had been chosen as the meeting place for the Melbourne Reclaim Australia event just as central locations in other cities had been chosen for the other 15 protests to be held that day.
The Reclaim Australia organisers included an assortment of normally non political mums and dads as well as a sizeable and more multicultural contingent from Sri Lankan born Pastor Danny Nalliah’s Catch the Fire ministries. The first group of around one or two hundred people proudly waving their Australian flags arrived to see that a foul smelling similar sized group made up of chanting counter protesters was already in the square. In response the Reclaim Australia rally organisers took up position on a raised platform in the centre of the area which could only be entered from the now occupied square proper or via a large set of stairs that led towards the CBD.
As the Reclaim Australia attendees began to arrive in dribs and drabs a large block of leftists arrived and formed a human blockade across the foot of the large set of stairs. At the same time counter protesters in the main square moved to attack the police line separating them from the other side of the raised platform which now housed the majority of the Reclaim Australia leaders. The “Reclaimers” now arriving singly and in small groups were harassed, spat on and attacked outside the barricade while Victoria police did little or nothing to help.
One elderly Polynesian lady was thrown to the ground, her small Australian flag ripped from her hands and burned. Stealing flags became a sport for the leftists as they surrounded one small group of confused patriots after another, yelling, pushing and in some cases outright punching and kicking those who dared to stand up to the screeching apparently deranged ferals who had shown up to a protest about Halal certification and were now maniacally screaming something incoherent about Aboriginals. One young leftist ripped a flag from a Reclaimer and ostentatiously threw it in the bin not realising that the man standing beside that bin was a frustrated Reclaimer unable to join the main rally. After being chased along Spencer Street the suddenly frantic young leftist ironically sought safety behind a police officer that only moments before he had probably considered a “racist pig”.
The confusion outside the blockade was immense. Protesters from both sides screamed, confronted each other and scuffles broke out throughout the square. Eventually enough Reclaim Australia protesters arrived and in large enough numbers to attempt to break the leftist blockades in the square and at the bottom of the stairs but they were too disorganised and too outnumbered. One dreadlocked fat girl (a well known activist from one of the smaller Marxist groups) was slightly jostled and theatrically fell to the ground squealing like a pig with her throat cut. As it became clear that reaching the central rally through the blockade was impossible and that Victoria Police had no intention of enforcing their right to peaceful protest more and more of the Reclaim activists wandered away.
As the Reclaim Australia event ended and those on the raised platform attempted to leave the counter protesters organised coordinated attacks both on the police protecting those trying to exit and on the remaining patriots still scuffling in the lower square. While they had failed to stop the rally entirely the counter protesters had significantly disrupted it, and had intimidated and assaulted those trying to attend.
There were sixteen rallies held across the nation that day in the name of Reclaim Australia. But only in Melbourne and one other city (the outlier of Hobart) were patriots outnumbered by the extreme left. In every other place the anti-Australian counter protesters were subdued, outnumbered and in many cases clearly scared. What made Melbourne different? Why were the Reclaimers in Melbourne so badly out-organised while those across more traditionally patriotic regions of Australia triumphant? As one young man from Gippsland was heard to lament on the train ride home: this is our country, why were there so many Australia-hating Australians ready to attack those willing to stand up for their nation? And why were they so organised?
To understand the answer you have to understand the Melbourne extreme left scene. It became obvious to those observing in the lead to to the event that almost none of the people organising the Melbourne Reclaim Australia rally had any idea of the fanaticism and hate that the Melbourne extreme left held towards any display of Australian patriotism. It was clear that the organisers believed that this rally would be the same as those in Sydney or Brisbane or Townsville. That the absurd cranks who hate their own country would be kept away by police forces who understood that Australian citizens had the right to protest in their own interest. Sadly they misunderstood the situation in Melbourne.
The Melbourne extreme left took to the Melbourne Reclaim Australia rallies with the enthusiasm and demeanour of rabid dogs. Those new to politics had no idea of the numerous internal and factional conflicts amongst the Melbourne extreme left that cause them to compete by way of organising attacks on anyone vaguely to the right of Malcolm Turnbull in their struggle for dominance over each other. The poor mums and dads of the Reclaim movement had no idea of the bucket of Anarchist and Marxist crabs they were stumbling into.
In Melbourne the “Reclaimers” had been massively out organised. The “No Room for Racism” group had understood their intentions, organised activists from a variety of far left extremist groups and had mobilised to occupy the intended demonstration site before the “Reclaimers” could arrive. So who was “No Room for Racism”? The group was an initiative of the “Socialist Party”, a Trotskyist group then led by long-term Marxist activist and Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly.
The Socialist Party was a relatively small left-wing extremist group but had used the prestige it had gained in organising the successful campaign to block the proposed East-West link project to take a leading role in organising the counter-protest. The blockage of the East-West link had involved a wide variety of extreme left groups from a wide variety of extremist backgrounds working together with councils in Melbourne’s inner “red north” to successfully block construction of a much needed road project that while extremely beneficial to tradies travelling from the outer suburbs would have been inconvenient to those living in the Australian hipster Meccas of Fitzroy, Brunswick and Clifton hill. The overall cost to the Victorian taxpayer for the cancellation of this scheme was somewhere over a billion dollars, and forcing such a concession from State government had given the long time Marxist activist and Yarra Councillor Stephen Jolly enough prestige to thrust himself to the top of the pile when it came to organising the extreme left’s response to what they saw as the Reclaim Australia threat.
Stephen Jolly had first migrated to Australia from Britain in the late 1980s as a member of the then extremely successful “Militant Tendency” Trotskyist group. Having failed to make an impact in Sydney he moved south after the election of the Liberal Kennett government in the early 90s to organise protest groups and attempt to build his forces for the “revolution” he religiously believed was coming. He led an ultimately failed campaign and occupation at Richmond High School which nonetheless gained him publicity at the expense of those who followed him, and continued this pattern through the “Save Albert Park” movement, the abhorrent and disgusting violent attacks on Melbourne One Nation meetings and the ridiculous S11 riots outside Crown Casino. The victory in the East West Link campaign had given him a reputation on the extreme left of a man who could create efficient organisations and coalitions. And with this in mind with the announcement of the Reclaim Australia rallies Jolly founded his own “coalition” group “No Room For Racism” to organise mob attacks in central Melbourne.
In a video (now lost to the internet sands of time) Jolly can be seen at the event co-ordinating the attacks on the Reclaimers with his fellow Marxist activists. In the crowd was signage from nearly every Marxist group in Melbourne, with the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and the Freedom Socialist Party prominent. Almost every Marxist and Anarchist group in the city had mobilized at the call of a single leader to attack the Reclaim Australia rally. On the other side the Reclaimers were isolated and disorganized, arriving either singly or in small groups and had no real chance to reclaim the initiative once the police had allowed the left wing extremists to “kettle” their organizers. As the smoke cleared who had won was obvious. The Marxists and Anarchists danced and cheered and filmed themselves burning yet more captured Australian flags.
Then the smarter ones amongst them noticed that out of the sixteen Reclaim Australia rallies held that April Day they had attended one of only two where the leftists had outnumbered the Reclaimers. They were extremely annoyed at this, and took out their frustration by attacking other rallies held by Reclaim and its offshoots throughout 2015. Usually the pattern remained the same, in Melbourne the feral leftist thugs outnumbered the patriots facing off against them while in the rest of Australia either the numbers were more even or the Reclaimers prevailed. Then in August 2015 the Bendigo Mosque protests began.
The extreme left in Melbourne were extremely pissed off at the time. I was watching some of their private messaging groups in the lead up to the first Bendigo protest and it didn’t seem to matter that they had outnumbered the Reclaimers at the battle of Federation square, the mere fact that a street movement had come from absolutely nowhere to challenge their presumed predominance on the Australian pavement was extremely disconcerting to them. They were rattled.
They were especially enraged when Channel 7 gave a fair interview to the founders of Reclaim Australia. The Anarchists and Marxists of the extreme left rely on being able to paint their opponents as nefarious neo-Nazis to maintain both the moral high ground amongst their supporters and the sympathy of the wider Australian public. They were so annoyed that one of the more prominent Anarchist organisers in Melbourne managed to get himself a column in the Guardian attempting to smear the Reclaim organisers that had appeared on the program.
The rally in Bendigo and the rallies that followed it were an abject humiliation for the extreme left. At that first event on the 29th of August they were outnumbered almost two to one and had to be protected by police from angry patriots when one of the leftists began (again) burning an Australian flag. The next rally was an even bigger disaster for the left. By the time of the third rally in early 2016 only a couple dozen or so leftist extremists bothered to make the trip up from Melbourne.
While the mosque protest ultimately failed and the Reclaim Australia events slowly fizzled out the impact of patriots being willing to come out onto the streets and confront the extreme left was immense. Showing the wider Australian public just how weak the extremists were outside their strongholds was a turning point, and the battle of Federation square was the beginning of that turning point. While patriots were being attacked and their flags burned in Melbourne at the simultaneous Reclaim Australia rally in Brisbane Pauline Hanson was speaking. The tempestuous redhead was announcing that she was standing for the umpteenth time for election, this time for the Senate in Queensland. While her speech was well received on the day almost nobody listening would have thought she had much of a shot. After all Pauline had been standing unsuccessfully for parliaments both state and federal since they let her out of jail in 2003. The idea that this time would be any different would have seemed far fetched.
Just over 12 months later Pauline Hanson was sworn in as Senator for Queensland, due at least in part to the cultural movement that the Reclaim Australia rallies unleashed.
Reclaim Australia showed that when pushed, even disorganised normally non-political Aussies can stand up for themselves and take the fight to the traitors who hate them. It showed that simply because the anti-Australian extreme left is more fanatical, more organised and has dug its way into Australia’s institutions doesn’t mean that they in any way represent the mainstream of Australian opinion.
The Marxists began a new chant after a number of subsequent rallies in the southern capital: “You’ll always lose in Melbourne“. Which was entirely accurate, attempting to out organise in the teeth of the extreme left in the middle of its Australian stronghold was probably an impossible task from the beginning. But the Battle of Federation square showed that despite these odds there were still hundreds of patriotic Australians willing to try. And the Reclaim Australia rallies elsewhere (as well as the Bendigo mosque protests) proved beyond any reasonable doubt that while the extremists might always win in Melbourne, they could be (and were) beaten almost anywhere else.
That’s the legacy of Reclaim Australia. And it’s a legacy worth celebrating.