Chants of “Black, Indigenous, Arab, Asian and white—unite, unite, unite to fight the right!” echoed across the streets of Sunshine West on Saturday, when 500 anti-fascist activists and local community members gathered to protest against Legacy Boxing Gym.
The gym has become a flashpoint for anti-fascist opposition since the Age revealed last year that it is an organising base for a neo-Nazi organisation called the National Socialist Network (NSN). The group is one of the most reactionary of Australia’s far-right: a Hitler-worshipping, anti-Semitic white supremacist outfit, the confidence and visibility of which has grown in the wake of the right-wing anti-vax movement.
In less than a year, the NSN has disrupted community events for queer youth and a mourning ceremony on Invasion Day, performed the Sieg Heil salute on the steps of Victoria’s parliament to support the far-right transphobic activist Posie Parker, and organised several racist protests—including a demonstration, in the wake of federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton’s post-budget remarks, blaming immigration for the housing crisis.
Saturday’s protest followed a recent attempt by NSN members to disrupt an anti-fascist fundraiser for the White Rose Society and the Black People’s Union at Cafe Gummo, a left-wing gathering place in Thornbury. Though they intended to intimidate, the handful of Nazis instead were forced to flee up High Street.
A subsequent speakout called by the Campaign against Racism and Fascism in response to the Nazi mobilisation grew into a 100-strong demonstration of solidarity with the anti-fascist groups and built momentum for Saturday’s protest.
Speakers at the Sunshine rally spoke about Melbourne’s history of anti-fascist resistance, the connections between the political establishment and the far right, and the need for ongoing grassroots opposition to neo-Nazi organising. Speakers included Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick and Victorian Socialists member Liz Walsh.
“There can be no safe space for Nazis”, Walsh said. “Not in the western suburbs, not in the northern suburbs, not in the east or the south. Nowhere can the Nazis be allowed any space to organise and grow. We must be committed to hounding them wherever they go.”
While antifascists took a stand against the Nazis on their own turf in Sunshine, a number of the latter joined the Vote No protests held at the same time in the city, where they unfurled a banner reading: “Voice = anti-white”.
This highlights the need to build an ongoing anti-racist and anti-fascist movement capable of kicking the Nazis out of Sunshine and of challenging the broader racism of the “mainstream” conservative right, which gives oxygen to their reactionary politics.