Events at this week’s Equal Love Rally expose a dangerous rift and a fatal flaw in our community campaign for equality: time to reassess, refocus, and do things differently.
The punch-up at the Australian Christian Lobby event at the Scots Church had its genesis in the rhetoric of the speaker, Eric Metaxas: he used the magic word, ‘Nazi’.
For weeks before Metaxas’ arrival in Australia, social media had been making hay with his references to the Nazi era. His point was this: churches who do not stand against G.A.Y.* rights and marriage equality are like the churches in Germany who failed to stand up to Hitler and Nazism. From this, G.A.Y.* activists inferred that he was equating us with Nazis.
I’m not sure it is quite that simple: for once, Metaxas’ supporters may have a point when they claim he’s been taken out of context. However, that hardly matters now. Because once the ‘N-word’ was out there, it fired up two groups with very little interest in marriage equality, but a great deal of interest in fascism: anarchists, and neo-nazis. This in turn sowed the seeds that led to Wednesday night’s minor punch-up on .
Neil Ericson, a well-known far-right agitator with links to Reclaim Australia, United Patriots Front and others, claims he just “happened” to be passing the Scots Church when he noticed the Equal Love Rally. In reality, he was probably there because he thought Metaxas was pro-Nazi, or something (I haven’t spoken to him, but I’ve posted some of his videos below. You’ll get the idea. He’s not the brightest: in fact, if one of his brain cells dies, the other one is going to be very lonely).
Now if there are a few things Neil does not like, they are “those kiddy fiddling Safe Schools paedophiles”, anti-fascists (ANTIFA), fringe socialist groups (anything beginning with “Socialist”), and anarchists. Finding all present, he whipped out the video camera he just “happened” to have with him, and began filming.
Now over to the left-hand side. I spoke with well-known anarchist Kieran Bennett, who told me that the anarchists were there, not just because they support marriage equality, but to protest against the Australian Christian Lobby and their guest, Eric Metaxas. The magic N-word drew them in, too.
The anarchists in particular do not like being filmed. You can see their reactions in Ericson’s videos (below) as he taunts them. They recognised him, and decided, in Bennett’s words, “to deprive him of his camera”. And so they pulled bandanas over their faces (in one case, an ‘Anonymous’ mask), and jumped him.
The melee was over in a matter of seconds: photographer Michael Barnett captured the whole thing in a burst of 20 stills, during which the police leaped in, pepper sprayed a couple of people, and ended the fight, such as it was. Ericson’s claim that the police ‘stood by’ and did nothing while he was bashed, is false.
After a pause for thought – his processes are inevitably somewhat slow – Ericson posted another video claiming he may have been digitally anally raped. And it’s clear from the photos that his trousers somehow became pulled down during the scuffle. He claims to be embarrassed to talk about it – hence the delay in posting the video – and that he will take a complaint to the police. We shall see.
So far, so simple. Not really anything to do with Equal Love: just two old enemies squaring off in a rather farcical scuffle. The ACL say it’s the rainbow movement turning on one another, which it wasn’t. But there was an evident split in the rainbow. [more below]
Do you remember when Melbourne’s Pride March was disrupted by a group who concealed their faces with bandanas and unfurled a large banner reading Queers Revolt? They were protesting the “pinkwashing” of major corporates and the police in the event. They were also protesting trans exclusion from mainstream G.A.Y.* politics, with its narrow focus on marriage equality.
“We wanted to draw attention to the ties of Pride with environmentally destructive and socially unjust corporations as well as police and political parties that institutionalise oppressive systems,” the group said in a statement on Insurrection News.
This same group overlaps with the anarchist contingent. Bennett suggested I should talk to one of them, Nick Carson. Carson has not so far responded to my request for a chat, but he did post a comment on Equal Love Convenor Anthony Wallace’s statement about the violence at the rally.
fkn respectability bs. if by “fringe groups” he means the trans people blocking the entrance to the conference or the antifa allies or the radical queers he better get used to it cuz these ain’t fringe groups they’re real people who are all the colours of the LGBTIQA+ rainbow.
This exposes the deep and deepening split in the G.A.Y* community caused by the continuing long slow failure of the campaign for marriage equality. That campaign has been built on a false consensus, which is now breaking down. For too many years too many other urgent reforms have been deprived of oxygen, while the community united behind the push for marriage. That unity can no longer hold.
Insurrection News carries a statement explaining Wednesdays events.
One of the speakers at the Naarm / Melbourne event included Eric Metaxas, a conservative bigot from the USA who is infamous for campaigning against marriage equality being legalized and for being part of the attack against Trans people using public toilets.
In response, the mainstream queer group Equal Love organized what was touted as being a peaceful ‘speak out’ against the event. However a sizable contingent of militant LGBTQI anarchists, antifascists and anti-authoritarians and their supporters were in attendance and quickly decided that a counter-protest and blockade of the event would also take place.
Previous events organized by Equal Love have been justifiably criticized for not centering the issues of Transphobia and Transmisogny as well as placing nearly all of the emphasis on mainstream queer issues such as marriage equality.
Young queers are not prepared to wait while the friendly Irishman imported by Australian Marriage Equality builds his niceness campaign: organising tea and biscuits with the nation’s grannies, friendly chats with the neighbours, and gay days at work.
“Conversations will happen all across Australia, and that’s not all in TV studios; it’s at kitchen tables. It’s a conversation about somebody that everybody knows; someone who stood beside you at the local football match, someone who sits beside you at Christmas dinner.”
They are not prepared to hang about for another estimated five years (because if one thing is sure, it’s that there will never be a plebiscite: it’s nothing but a delaying tactic) while the Liberal Party slowly comes round, like a massive ocean liner pulled by the under-powered tugboat that is AME. They want action now on a host of other issues besides marriage, which is irrelevant to them, issues such as young G.A.Y.* homelessness, trans exclusion.
Equal Love, Pride and Australian Marriage Equality, despite their difference, are all one to these kids. They think we have abandoned them. And you know what? We have. We need to find a way to include them and their concerns. There are ways.
Stop attacking the Australian Christian Lobby, stop reacting to them, ignore them: it only inflates their self-importance.
Stop rallying at the State Library, and start rallying at meaningful locations, like your friendly local Catholic Cathedral during Sunday Mass, or Kevin Andrews electorate office.
Stop being reactive and get pro-active. We should set the terms of this conversation.
During the election campaign, AME must forget about playing nice and taking tea with friends. Build crack teams of articulate, committed, well-dressed activists to turn up at every media event, every doorstep, every walkabout, by every anti-marriage MP and Senator, of whatever party, with posters to wave in front of the cameras and pointed questions to shout at them.
Have teams infiltrate every Q&A, Sunrise, Breakfast and chat show on television to do likewise. I’m sure you can think of more. With the aim to have Marriage Equality passed into law on the first day of the next parliament. And if it isn’t, to keep a tent embassy on the lawns of Parliament House every day until it is.
And unless you are AME, stop talking about marriage, and start talking about and agitating for, the other pressing issues around health, homelessness, youth, aged care. The united front approach has failed: it’s time to drop it.
Neil Ericson trying to film some of the anarchists, anti-fascists and socialists. Clearly he is trying to provoke a response.
Which he duly got.
“Just got attacked by safe schools supporters on the way to ALA meeting. Lol I cracked Kieran Bennett a nice jab right in his fat sumo burger eating mouth tho hahaha” Neil Ericson.
For the record, he didn’t knock Kieran Bennett out. But then he came back with this
*G.A.Y. = Good As You
The acronym formerly known as LGBTIQQ2A+