Wearing Australian flags as capes and flashing chest tattoos proclaiming ‘Anzac’, the organisers of the Brisbane Reclaim Australia rally were forced to let Jimmy Barnes vocals do the talking for them, when their microphone failed to launch.
Emma Miller Place, just outside the CBD, was home to duelling rallies on Sunday, with fences and a strong police line dividing Reclaim Australia supporters from the counter rally organised to drown them out.
That became an easier task than first anticipated, with microphone issues continuing to plague the Reclaim Australia side, with organisers forced to ask if “anyone in the crowd know anything about these things”.
While the counter rally, which outnumbered the 200 or so Reclaim Australia supporters by at least 100 people, yelled ‘Muslims are welcome, racists are not’, the group on the other side asked their supporters to “bear with us, we’re having a few technical difficulties here”.
“Anyone want to do anything, sing, dance?,” the MC asked.
No one did. Except when Cold Chisel or AC/DC played. Then the crowd bounced, bending at the knees and waving signs proclaiming “kindy before marriage” and “not all Muslims are bad, but all terrorists are Muslim”.
Eventually the group was forced to move closer to the speakers, gathering around as if at a camp fire, or school class, after the calls of “can’t hear” became louder than the stories those “fighting extreme Islam” had to tell.
But it wasn’t enough to drown out the the anti-Reclaim Australia rally, which was filled with those used to protests – unionists, socialists, the LGBTI community, environmentalists and “those just sick of racists and fascists speaking for our country”.
The counter rally pointed out the grammatical and spelling errors in the Reclaim Australia supporter’s signs, “immigration has another i,” one speaker yelled across the fence.
When a Muslim woman spoke at the counter rally, declaring “this is not your country to reclaim”, “speak English” could be heard yelled across the divide, causing a small flare in tensions.
The counter-rally began chanting “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”, which visibly confused some Reclaim Australia supporters, who threw their hands up in frustration and called for the other side to “pick a side”.
A counter-rally speaker, her face covered with a bandana, criticised the police for “protecting them”.
The Reclaim rally praised the police, claiming they “were frustrated at not being able to do anything”.
Throughout, the blue line remained impassive.
With the microphone continuing to fail the Reclaim organisers, they sang the national anthem, but volume levels continued to plague the Reclaim cause.
“I have to stand here and listen to those c**ts over there, because we can’t get a microphone that works, it’s not fair,” one young man, wrapped in an Australian flag said.
“When do we get to be heard?”
Not Sunday afternoon. The Reclaim speakers did their best to carry on, explaining their fears and declaring “I believe we are at war and no one has announced it”, but with the weather beginning to turn and no end to the microphones issues in sight, the group seemed to lose its earlier enthusiasm, mustering cheers for “no longer do we want
Islam in our country”.
An attempt to start a chant of “refugees are not welcome here, Islam is not welcome here”, failed.
“I’m sick of listening to those white Aborigines over there,” another protester declared, while “this is what we’re fighting for, no racism, no war” chants continued.
“What’s the f**king point,” a Reclaim protester declared to a fellow supporter in disgust.
“They’re f**king brainwashed over there. You can’t reason with those who are brain dead.”
Eventually participants in the Reclaim Australia rally managed to use a bullhorn to get their message across.
But declaring that “Australian icons”, John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes had asked Reclaim to stop appropriating their music, the counter rally began playing Farnham’s You’re the Voice at full volume.
Those on the fringes of the Reclaim rally couldn’t help but repeatedly look in the direction of the music, some unable to stop a slight sway in time to the chorus.
The Reclaim group embraced the ubiquitous ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ chant, while those on the other side asked for originality.
“Brush your teeth,” one counter protester yelled. “Jesus.”
One Reclaim Australia rally participant demanded police arrest the members of the counter-protest, while another participant was arrested after attempting to jump a barrier fence.
One man from the Reclaim Australia side fired a small plastic projectile at the counter rally, a woman was hit and fell to the ground holding her face.
While her friends took her away, they implored police to arrest who was responsible, but they did not break their line.
The man who threw the plastic told other Reclaim supporters he was “aiming for the guy” with the bull horn and they nodded sagely. The air horn one supporter had brought out to drown out the counter protest had run out of gas, and try as they might to get a counter chant started, the Reclaim crowd appeared too fractured, or too frustrated, to take it up en masse.
With relations between the two sides becoming increasing hostile, the Reclaim crowd pulled out, as organisers began walking through the crowd, telling them to leave.
The counter rally exploded with “they’re leaving” and began chanting “good bye”, declaring “a decisive victory”. They waited until the Reclaim crowd dispersed, which came after one gentleman ran along the fence waggling his tongue between his forked fingers and calling for the counter protesters to “come on then”.
One Reclaim protester told his friend he would “definitely” attend the next rally, but added he hoped it would be “a bit better organised”.
“Like, working speakers wouldn’t go astray,” he said.
“Oh – and a working microphone.”