[By Sue Bolton & Maureen Murphy] Today in Coburg, around 400-500 people rallied peacefully in opposition to the federal government policies that promote racism towards Aborigines, refugees and Muslims. This was despite the rain. Rally participants included the young and the old, people with children, church groups, interfaith groups, refugees, Muslims and First Nations people.
Rally organisers said that the breadth of the participants and the speakers reflected the cultural diversity of Moreland.
Wurundjeri elder Andrew Gardiner opened the rally with a Welcome to Country. Gardiner told rally participants that “The racism perpetrated against our own people that justified the genocide, is the same racism that is perpetrated against refugees and Muslims. Racism is simply unsustainable and unacceptable in our multicultural community.”
He was followed by Aboriginal elders Gary Murray and Robert Nicholls from the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group putting the case for Treaty Now with the First Nations people.
Local Muslim woman Nasrin Amin told the rally that “I have chosen to be here to stand up for my basic human right, that is, my freedom to practice my religion without fearing being harassed. The rising trend of Islamophobia and racism dividing our community. This needs to STOP.
“The racists, who cannot tolerate our freedom of choice, are attacking our mosques, schools, business, and committing violence towards Muslim women. There is no doubt that Muslim women are the easy targets for these racist bigots. Statistics shows that 40 % of the racial attacks occur on public places. 80% of these attacks are targeted towards Muslim women.”
Amin added that: “We need to realise that by allowing these racist groups to promote hatred, our politicians are diverting our attention from the real issues, such as, Aboriginal rights, abuse and sufferings of refugees in detention centres, homelessness, aged care, disability, economy, unemployment, health and education.”
Rally organiser Sue Bolton said that the peaceful community rally against racism highlighted the need for a Treaty with the First Nations people, stopping the closure of Aboriginal communities, closing down the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres, letting refugees in to Australia and no to Islamophobia.
A small contingent of approximately 100 fascists travelled to Coburg from outside Melbourne in an attempt to disrupt and shut down the Moreland says NO to Racism community rally.
The fascist threat led to the police mobilising in large numbers and encouraging the shops to shut for the day. Organisers did not ask the far right to come to Coburg and did not support the closure of the shops.
Bolton said that “It is the fascist group that led to the shutting down of the Coburg shopping centre for part of the day, not the Moreland says NO to Racism rally.
“If the organisers of the rally had caved in to the fascists and cancelled the rally, then the fascists would feel emboldened to target any group organising around a progressive cause and dictate what people can say.
“Many of the rally participants, especially from the migrant and Muslim communities congratulated the organising committee for bringing together such a diverse range of speakers and community groups and for conducting a peaceful rally.
“The peaceful community rally resisted the threat from the far right by maintaining our right to speak out against racism. What use is a democratic right unless you can use it? We have seen too many repressive regimes overseas that restrict free speech. We have to resist this trend in Australia.
“We have a right to organise protests against the federal government’s racist policies, especially as these are federal election issues. It would be absurd to deny us the right to speak out on these issues.”