True to Form: Victoria Police Continues to Permit Nazis to March in Public Unannounced

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Nazi Parade

Victoria police has, yet again, reminded the public that when it comes to law enforcement bodies the nation over, officers have a tendency to sympathise with far-right on-the-street agitators, whereas when leftwingers get out there doing it for Palestine or climate, they’re met with disdain.

This assertion was clearly evidenced on 3 December, when a couple of dozen Nazis marched down a main street in the Victorian town of Ballarat seemingly unannounced and no action was taken.

Yet, just days later, officers were out on the beat, excessively policing pro-Palestinian activists and climate defenders, as if they’re posing the threat to public safety.

The members of the nation’s largest grassroots neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Network, all wore black clothing, hats and balaclavas, as they marched down the street behind a banner emblazoned with the retrograde statement they were also chanting, “Australia for the White Man”.

Indeed, if it wasn’t so deplorable, it would be laughable.

The townsfolk of Ballarat were not only disgusted with neo-Nazis parading down a main street in broad daylight, but what equally gobsmacked them was the form of Victoria police, as it did nothing, even when the procession stood directly outside the local police station and took photos.

So, over 2023, not only has Victoria police let Nazis demonstrate freely for the first time in Australian history and also now for a third time, but as police are the attack dog of government, these events have confirmed that Labor, as is commonly understood with the Libs, favours Nazis over antifascists.

Nazis on parade

“The rally and march by the NSN were unannounced, presumably in order to avoid any counterprotest but also to demonstrate to a wider public that it can operate effectively without either police knowledge or sanction,” confirmed independent researcher, Andy Fleming.

“There was no significant police presence, but some were in fact mobilised in order to manage traffic on behalf of the NSN,” added the writer, whose reports on the far-right feature on the Slackbastard website.

According to Fleming, the NSN regional assembly was comprised mainly of neo-Nazis from Melbourne, some from around the state, and potentially others from interstate. But he stressed that there aren’t many Nazis in Ballarat, although the Antipodean Resistance had been active a few years back.

As for the stark policing, Fleming told Sydney Criminal Lawyers that as far as he’s aware, Victorian law enforcement has not upped its policing of white supremacists, despite it not being their first time on parade. And when the cops have been around, it’s been to shield the Nazis from antifascists.

“About 30 or so members took part, which likely reflects the maximum number that can be mobilised for such events at present,” he explained, adding that it was a “publicity stunt” to cause a stir amongst some of the thousands of other likeminded far-righters online locally and globally.

Police protection

The National Socialist Network has its roots at least as far back as the formation of Reclaim Australia circa 2015. These groups splintered and reformed – there was the United Patriots Front and The Lad’s Society. And then in 2020, the National Socialist Network formed as an umbrella group.

In January 2021, NSN members descended upon the small Victorian tourist town of Halls Gap, before entering the wilderness of the nearby Grampians, where, by cover of bush, the black-clad Anglo Australians were spotted making the Nazi salute and chanting “white power”.

NSN rallied in downtown Melbourne in March this year, when it turned up before state parliament to support UK anti-transgender figure and far-right provocateur Kellie-Jay Keen, who was holding an event that attracted an antifascist counterprotest, which the police cordoned off.

The far-right group once again attempted a demonstration before Parliament House on 13 May, which was disrupted by counterprotesters and police. So, the Nazis instead marched through the CBD, with Victoria police escorting them, making sure to block off two antifascist mobilisations.

“As with previous such public assemblies,” Fleming said of this month’s march, “in order to avoid public identification, while simultaneously projecting a militant image, the boys were masked and in uniform.” And he added that this time “only NSN leader Tom Sewell marched unmasked”.

The golden age that never existed

Fleming points out that the date and location of this latest, fast-becoming-commonplace, Nazi demonstration in Victoria was significant as it coincided with the 169th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion, which he explains taps into its claimed association with the White Australia policy.

The Eureka Rebellion was a series of civil disobedience actions during the Victorian gold rush, which saw white miners mobilising against their British administrators, over mainly the licensing system, which peaked when the rebels took on the colony at the Battle of Eureka Stockade in 1954.

This movement also involved an undercurrent racist sentiment and complaints regarding the local Chinese miners and migrants from the East Asian country in general.

“The NSN thus seeks to root its political expressions not only in the political legacy of Nazi Germany but also in White Australian nationalism,” Fleming continued, and he noted that whilst this is not the first time white nationalists have marked the date, they haven’t been so open about it before.

“The international dimensions of their public performances are rarely taken into consideration in most commentary and it is significant: the NSN is part of an international neo-Nazi movement, from which it draws inspiration and which it in turn inspires – even thrills.”

“The boys enjoy the notoriety their performances generate, especially the standard shock and horror mainstream commentators can reliably be called upon to express,” the researcher further outlined. “This outrage is in fact openly courted by them, and they’re rarely, if ever, disappointed.”

Same old song, same old suburb

As news of the Anglo men parading down the street began circulating, much was made of the fact that despite Victoria having last year banned making the Nazi salute in public, as well as prohibiting the display of swastikas and other insignia, this still permitted a Nazi demonstration to mobilise.

Whilst Victoria police didn’t seem too fazed by the march on a public road with no prior warning, they did go on to investigate whether a 15-year-old not associated with the group may have performed the prohibited salute in the vicinity of the demonstration.

And it’s not just the eye of casual comfortable Victoria police that is upon them. ASIO boss Mike Burgess began warning that 30 percent of the domestic spying agency’s terrorism workload had become focused on far-right extremists in 2020. And this figure has since spiked at 50 percent.

“If nothing else, the spectacle suggests that, despite intelligence and other state agencies being able to utilise numerous laws and surveillance technologies neo-Nazis can still operate relatively freely in public,” said Fleming. “In this sense, it could be considered an intelligence failure.”

The researcher made certain that he’s no expert on spying agency capabilities, so it would be wrong to assume anyone had any prior knowledge of the unannounced free procession that made its way down the road, screaming racist rhetoric, at a time when such sentiment is really falling over.

“Beyond this, the boys were careful not to display the swastika or to enact the Nazi salute, and yet still, managed to produce an unmistakably neo-Nazi display,” concluded Slackbastard, who’s had his eye on this for quite some time.

“To me this underlines the fact that however abhorrent and idiotic their ideology, like neo-Nazis elsewhere in the world, the boys are capable of rationally adapting their activity to changed legal circumstances and exploiting whatever political opportunities happen to present themselves.”

Main image: Screenshot of footage taken of the NSN procession that’s posted on X

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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