In Melbourne, hundreds of people washed spit from their faces on Saturday evening after clashes between supporters of Reclaim Australia, an anti-Islamic movement, and No Room For Racism, a coalition of trade union, community and left-wing groups, including the Socialist Alliance.
Police on horseback held the two groups apart, but one-on-one screaming matches occasionally broke out into pushing and shoving.
A Federation Square spokesman estimated 3000 people went at it noisily for more than three hours. Two men and a woman were arrested during the protests.
The Sydney Reclaim Australia, which went ahead in pouring rain in Martin Place, was interrupted by a protester who ran onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from one of the organisers, Sarah Spearpoint, shouting to the crowd they should be “ashamed” of themselves.
A fake Twitter account set up by a protester posing as ‘Jeremy’, a rogue Reclaim Australia member, caused further problems for the organisation on Saturday.
The account posted messages about drugs, dates with a girl called Shazza and xenophobia while putting out an “official statement” saying that the rallies planned for Saturday morning had been cancelled.
‘Jeremy’ also posted tweets saying “whats wrong with muslims anyway I dun get it”, “I like vegemite on toast, it’s great in a toastie after a big night who gives a shit if it’s halal what even the f… is that” and “In the car reading stuff wots xenophobia? help me out”
He then appeared to post a note apologising on behalf of Reclaim Australia saying ‘Jeremy’s’ access had been cut, followed by an ‘official statement’ that the rallies had been called off.
On their official Facebook page. Reclaim Australia representatives responded to the hijacking of their message: “It has been brought to our attention that people claiming to be representing Reclaim Australia Rallies have been making unauthorised statements on various media outlets. In some cases people, unknown to Reclaim Management, have made statements of which do not represent the consensus of Reclaim Australia Rallies at all.”
About 200 people turned up at the rally carrying placards that read “Protect Penrith”, “Ban the Burqa”, and T-shirts with the slogan “Support Our Troops Royal Australian Infidel” as simultaneous rallies were held around the country.