This last weekend saw a disturbing trend in far-right mobilisations in Australia’s largest cities, as Christian Lives Matter took over Sydney’s Hyde Park and the National Socialist Network gave the Nazi salute outside Melbourne Parliament House, with both groups targeting LGBTIQ communities.
Local constituencies had grown used to ultraconservatives out on the streets over the pandemic period demonstrating against the various health restrictions imposed by governments, but these recent rallies are distinct in being hate-filled disinformation campaigns targeting a minority group.
Both these far-right organisations were propagating the myth that LGBTQ people are prone to paedophilia, which is unfounded. And the claim that protesters were simply trying to protect children from systematic indoctrination was a thin veil to facilitate the spread of hatred.
In terms of rallying support, the fascist display by the National Socialist Network was unlikely to garner much sympathy. However, while Christian Lives Matter was conveying extreme prejudice too, it had cloaked it in a message that cast its supporters as a persecuted minority.
US journalist Chris Hedges has been warning of the rise of Christian fascists in the United States since 2007. And this sector of society accounted for a large part of former US president Donald Trump’s supporter base, and it now seems such entities are spilling out onto the streets in this country.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers was on the ground at the Christian Lives Matter demonstration in Hyde Park on 18 March, where it witnessed multiple speakers address the suggested need to protect children from a targeted agenda of “homosexualisation”.
The paranoid idea that there is a societywide conspiracy to promote diverse sexualities amongst children has been propagated by NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham, who entered state politics campaigning on the message that schools are fast becoming “gender fluidity factories”.
Latham’s views were clearly shared amongst the thousands of Christian Lives Matter followers in Hyde Park, as they cheered in support of statements asserting that children attending schools are being harmed by exposure to ideas that serve to embrace diversity in our culture.
However, in name and message, Christian Lives Matter is propagating the idea that Christians and heterosexuals are persecuted minorities, while both these cohorts dominate in our society.
Christianity is the majority religion, while the Church continues to hold great sway in this country, and systems and legal practices tend to favour and support heterosexual people and their preoccupations.
So, the Christian Lives Matter message upends society’s power structures with its claims that Christian values are under threat. And in doing so, this group and others like it are attempting to regain ground they consider was lost on establishment of marriage equality.
Community Action for Rainbow Rights supporter told a protest staged to counter Christian Lives Matter on Saturday, that there are clear links between the local rising far right and that in the US, where multiple pieces of anti-LGBTIQ legislation are before parliaments.
As of the beginning of this month, a record 385 anti-LGBTQ laws had been introduced into US state parliaments this year alone, with many targeting practices like the wearing of drag, while there’s further been a rise in homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.
Along with its anti-LGBTQ stance, the far right holds to racist and misogynistic beliefs, with the latter evidenced by the recent overturning of the federal right to abortion in the US, as conservatives were able to secure and advance this position under gains made by former US president Donald Trump.
In this country, it was the pandemic that served to bolster and coalesce the grassroots far right, with online forums seeing an aversion to COVID restrictions becoming closely associated with patriotism, antisemitism and conspiracies suggesting a global child trafficking network is being run by elites.
And recent years have also seen ASIO repeatedly warning about the rise of the far right in Australian suburbia, with 50 percent of its domestic terrorism caseload having a focus upon neo-Nazi and white supremacist actors as of November 2021.
Around 30 National Socialist Network members mobilised on Melbourne CBD streets last Saturday, in a show of support for UK anti-transgender activist Kellie-Jay Keen, who’s currently touring the nation holding a series of divisive speak outs.
The rally outside of Victoria parliament shocked many as the nation’s most prominent neo-Nazi group had its black-clad adherents march through the streets saluting Hitler.
And while this demonstration was legal, the group and others like it are no longer able to publicly display Nazi insignia in Victoria as it was outlawed mid-last year.
The footage of the demonstration is made all the more disturbing as Victoria police officers are seen to be holding back pro-transgender rights counter-protesters, whilst they allow the neo-Nazis procession and hand gesturing to continue.
The National Socialist Network was formed in late 2019, and it brought together various far right figures from now-disbanded white supremacist groupings, such as Reclaim Australia, the United Patriots Front and the Lad’s Society.
This is the same group notorious for having had its members photographed heiling Hitler in the Victorian wilderness in January 2021, with further reports alleging they’d also been burning a cross.
But this network is now so emboldened that it’s publicly mobilising on city streets.
Christian Lives Matter suggested that it was prioritising child protection over any hatred towards LGBTQ people. However, two weeks prior, as it conducted an unannounced demonstration through the streets of Newtown, it clearly had spreading hatred towards queer people as its chief aim.
The Christian fascists recently demonstrating in Sydney’s inner west had gathered to express their want to see others in the community with different ways of dressing or partaking in adult sexual activity erased because they don’t conform to their own ways, which is a fascist tendency.
But while Christian Lives Matter supporters will quickly counter this assertion with their claims of protecting of children, the National Socialist Network, in advancing the same agenda, is out and proud about its adherence to fascist ideology.
And beyond the immediate harm caused by these public demonstrations of hate, the further issue is that fascist and nationalistic agendas take hold in times of austerity, cost-of-living blowouts, polycrisis and in the build-up to war, which are all taking place at present.
Indeed, the political and economic climate in Australia right now is ripe for far right actors to gain further traction, and with the increasing authoritarian shift on the part of governments seeking to expand fossil fuels, last weekend’s mobilisations are symptomatic of a far greater and rising issue.