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Taking back the streets from neo-Nazis

Locals in one Melbourne suburb are standing up against a rising tide of neo-Nazi activity in their community. Ruby Alexander reports.

“Stand up fight back” was the chant echoing through the quiet suburban streets of Sunshine West as hundreds of concerned locals gathered to protest the rise of neo-Nazi movements.

In response to violent clashes with neo-Nazis in Melbourne, a diverse group of people congregated in the carpark of a supermarket to voice their opposition and march down to the Legacy gym, a facility owned and run by alleged neo-Nazis. The rally was organised by the Campaign Against Racism And Fascism and the National Union of Students Queer/LGBTI.

Grace Hill, the National Union of Students LGBTI officer and one of the organisers of the Sunshine rally, told The Burne: “I want to drive Nazis off the streets of Melbourne ... earlier in the year I was organising an anti-transphobia rally in the city and Nazis turned up as part of the transphobe crowd, with a big banner saying 'Destroy pedo freaks' in reference to LGBTI people.

"So, I'm here because the struggle to LGBTI rights is reality linked with the struggle for everything else that these Nazis are fighting against.”

Protestors marching towards Legacy Gym in Sunshine. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Ms Hill said rally organisers were hoping to unite anti-racists and fight back against racism and fascism.

“We mostly wanna drive the Nazis out, we don't think they should be able to just operate openly in the suburb of Sunshine."

The rising tensions and violent clashes have prompted calls for change and action from the government. In response to the anti-immigration rally in May, the Andrews government moved to ban the Nazi salute in Victoria.

However, with confrontations escalating and becoming increasingly more violent, people are demanding further action from the government. 

Grace Hill address the anti-Nazi rally. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam told the rally: “They go beyond banning symbols and gestures which are important, but we know that these movements will find new symbols and will find new gestures to grow and spread their hate. So it's really important we get to the bottom of why these groups exist in the first place and why people are gravitating towards them and joining and strengthening their movements.”

Sabrina, an activist who participated in the Sunshine rally, said: "Why are the Nazis here in the first place? That means something is not happening. Also, the government is not doing much in general, especially regarding the state of the climate and the rights of indigenous people. So, yeah, they need to be doing more."

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam speaking at the protest. (Photo: Ruby Alexander) 

Protester Sabrina demanded more goverment action against neo-Nazi activity. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

This rally came as a response to several recent incidents in Melbourne.

In March, at a pro-transgender rights rally outside Parliament, a group of neo-Nazis from the Nationalist Socialist Network marched along Spring Street dressed in all black, repeatedly performing the Nazi salute in protest.

In May, neo-Nazis clashed with police and counter-protesters at an anti-immigration rally. Glass jars were hurled towards the neo-Nazis before police used capsicum spray and arrested several people.

And last week neo-Nazis dressed and black and armed with knives attempted to crash an anti-fascist fundraiser held at Cafe Gummo in Thornbury but were fought off and chased down the street.


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