Five years ago this month the cupola in Rosalind Park in the Victorian city of Bendigo was surrounded by a sea of Aussies waving Australian flags. The mood was joyous. A multitude of people had braved the threats and intimidation of the extreme left, the bile and lies of the media, and the scornful disdain of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews to express their opposition to a proposed mega-mosque.
Some distance away at the much smaller counter-protest organised by the revolutionary Trotskyist group Socialist Alternative (SAlt) the mood was considerably more somber. Red flags flapped limply. Banners were brandished half-heartedly. Seasoned SAlt activists Jerome Small, Anneke Demanuele and Vashti Kenway frantically tried to create some sort of energy, leading ever more hoarse and desperate chants. Only the rotund figure of Melbourne Anarchist activist Kieran Bennett seemed pleased, reveling in a brief moment of relevance. But the other organisers knew better. They had been beaten.
The police stood quietly in a massive hollow square around the small huddle of leftists. Most looked bored. Suddenly an alarmed cry went up. An anti-Mosque protester had infiltrated the middle of the leftist rally and was openly mocking them. Jeering at their poor showing. The small crowd turned on him, screeching like banshees until he was removed by police. a wavering voice yelled into a megaphone: “These fascist, racist bigots will not march uncontested in our streets”.
Except of course the normal patriotic Australians these extremists had traveled up from Melbourne to “smash” were doing just that. And there was very little they could do about it.
The pro-mosque protesters had quite simply failed to draw a crowd.
Despite the backing of Dan Andrews, then PM Malcolm Turnbull, Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters and then Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane the reds simply hadn’t been able to convince very many of their usual followers to leave the comfort of Melbourne’s inner city suburbs.
The extreme left had failed. And they knew it. The plan had been to assemble in large numbers outside the Bendigo Town Hall and then surge through police lines to attack the patriot marchers in the park. It was a strategy that had almost succeeded at the previous protest in late August, but while that earlier chilly day had seen the extremists only slightly outnumbered, this blazing sunny day several months later was a different matter. Journalists on the ground estimated the patriot crowd at over one thousand people, dwarfing the Marxist led rabble by at least four to one if not more.
Regardless the small pro-mosque crowd marched towards Rosalind Park. Most of them had come all the way from Melbourne after all. They couldn’t just slink back with their tails between their legs without even trying to attack their hated enemies. As they meandered down Pall Mall they caught sight of the sea of Australian flags heading towards the cupola in the centre of the park.
The Marxists screamed their rage at this display of patriotic pride, surging towards a footbridge that crossed Bendigo creek and led into the park. The leaders of the mob screeching shrilly in their eagerness to attack the flags they hate so much. At the earlier August event the leftist protesters had burnt an Australian flag from the top of a light post in order to provoke the patriotic crowd. No doubt they hoped to vent their hate in a similar way this time. But fortunately for the extremely outnumbered leftists a platoon of police had blocked the bridge.
Foiled in their attempt to attack the patriots the extremists turned on whoever was at hand. Photographer Franc Titan unfortunately found himself trapped in the middle of the black masked mob. He tried to take photos but was attacked by three of the leftist thugs (one in a black and red anarcho-communist mask) who jumped on him and ripped his camera from his hand before he was pulled from the enraged mob by police.
Meanwhile in the cupola families and friends shared a display of peaceful community strength against these outsiders who had dared to threaten them and tell them what they could and could not say.
The bullies of the far left slunk away, defeated and the vision of this rally went viral around Australia. Almost every news bulletin had footage of smiling Australian flag-waving mosque opponents on one side and snarling, hate filled, black-masked leftist thugs on the other. Thanks to both this rally and the earlier one in August the Bendigo mosque ceased to be a local issue. All over Australia ordinary mums and dads, nannas and families, tradies and students, all began to have debates over whether residents had the right to oppose developments in their neighbourhoods and on what grounds.
The Marxists tried to hold another counter protest in February 2016 but could barely muster enough people to block a stretch of pavement, let alone the hundreds of patriots waving Australian flags marching past them down the road. Their friends at the ABC declared that they had gathered 50 people that day, but even a cursory glance at the pictures of the event show that estimate to be absurdly generous.
The left didn’t like the Bendigo protests. Not at all. And the extreme left, the Marxists and Anarchists who had organised the failed counter protests liked it even less. The Marxists of Socialist Alternative and their fellow travelers had spent most of early 2015 enjoying attacking outnumbered Reclaim Australia events in their stronghold of Melbourne with something approaching impunity. For them the fact that outside their cosseted little inner city holes they didn’t have the organisation to sustain a long term dominance of the streets was a disturbing wake-up call.
The extreme left in Australia has no electoral power. Australians don’t really like Marxism and as a rule don’t vote for it. The only way they can exercise political power is on the streets, by enforcing a violent veto over who is and isn’t allowed to peacefully express a political opinion. In Bendigo the limits of their ability to do this were exposed. And they didn’t like it at all. Not one bit.
If the Bendigo anti-mosque protests had not fallen away and had maintained their momentum it could possibly have been the rock that shattered the sheet glass illusion of the extreme left’s power in the state where they are supposedly the most powerful. Of course the protests didn’t maintain that momentum, so we’ll never know. Without their illusion of strength these groups lose their ability to intimidate. Without their ability to intimidate they’re reduced to impotent rage, squealing into the void. Sadly that didn’t happen back then. Maybe one day it will.
But for now we can always remember with a smile that sunny day five years ago when the patriots of Bendigo sent the red scum scampering back to Brunswick with their tails between their legs.