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Antisemitic streak seen in Melbourne protests

Sep 30, 2021 | Naomi Levin

Protesters at a Melbourne anti-lockdown protest hold a poster with the French word “Qui” on it. “Qui” is a codeword used by white supremacists to imply Jews (Image: screenshot)
Protesters at a Melbourne anti-lockdown protest hold a poster with the French word “Qui” on it. “Qui” is a codeword used by white supremacists to imply Jews (Image: screenshot)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, extremists and conspiracy theorists have sought to falsely blame the pandemic on Jews and accuse Jews of somehow trying to obtain political dominance through the use of vaccinations.

This has continued during the recent Melbourne anti-lockdown protests, which increasingly appear to have been calculated and organised, rather than being a spontaneous reaction to Victorian Government policy.

Media has reported on antisemitic comments made by at least one key demonstration leader, antisemitic graffiti has been reported along one of the protest routes and antisemitic comments are easy to find in the comments sections of content created by protest ringleaders.

As well as finding “Qui?” posters brandished by demonstrators at the September 18 rally (read more about this antisemitic slogan here), “no Jew jab for Oz” was scrawled on the outside of a large shopping centre in Richmond along Saturday’s protest route.

On video sharing site Bitchute, this sentiment was echoed repeatedly. The comments section of videos of the Melbourne demonstrations were rife with comments like “Jew jab kills”, “nobody worthwhile is taking the Jew jab” and worse. These videos have received thousands of views with hundreds of “likes” and comments. Other comments said, “kick the Jews out” and “we must stop the Jewish controlled governments”.

An investigation in Australian online Jewish newspaper +61J suggested there are at least 24 Australian anti-lockdown social media groups that have been found to be promoting antisemitism and other neo-Nazi viewpoints.

Meanwhile, in March, The Guardian Australia reported that one of the protest’s organisers, Melbourne’s Harrison McLean, participated in a group on the encrypted social media channel Telegram that was devoted to “serious anti-Zionist chat”. In that group, McLean wrote that he was not ready to spread anti-Jewish hate to his new followers because they are “not ready for the JQ [Jewish question] yet, and may attack us as highly anti-semitic and stop promoting us all together to their friends and families.”

As McLean’s public profile has grown in the wake of the recent demonstrations, McLean has not shied away from the accusations, instead sharing links to news articles describing his extremist views with his followers on Telegram.

Experts have warned that the leaders of Melbourne’s recent violent anti-lockdown protests appear to be strategically manipulating protesters in order to recruit them to increasingly extreme movements.

Professor Greg Barton, a counter-terrorism expert at Deakin University, told ABC TV “A critical element directing, planning and egging on the protesters comes from far-right, extremist groups.”

Associate Professor Debra Smith, a terrorism expert from Victoria University, added: “Right-wing extremists are quite strategic in how they operate. So rather than just using core ideological messaging, they look for opportunities in everyday political debates where they can insert themselves.”

Josh Roose, a senior research fellow also from Deakin University, explained that right-wing extremist groups are capitalising on the anger many Melburnians are feeling toward ongoing lockdowns.

“The far-right has really sought to mobilise frustrated people and push them more towards right-wing narratives, particularly white nationalist narratives,” Roose wrote in The Age.

Roose added on Channel 10’s “The Project”, “These groups are really skilled, particularly the far-right, in targeting that anger and representing that narrative, and ideas that encapsulate that narrative, to give young men someone to blame.”

The instigators of Melbourne’s recent violent anti-lockdown protests appear to have been motivated by a mixture of anti-government, populist and libertarian views. They continue to advocate for an end to lockdowns and against mandatory vaccination. They incite chaos while arguing that any violence is provoked by police, which one leader labelled #vicstapo – a reference to the Nazi’s Gestapo secret police.

The demonstrations also appear to have involved a degree of coordination with or by a German-based conspiracy-driven group that promoted “World Wide Freedom Rallies” on September 18 around the world – from Melbourne to Belize City to Jaipur and many cities in between. On that date in Melbourne, thousands of demonstrators wrought havoc in the inner-city suburb of Richmond after police took measures to effectively shut down the CBD.

Demonstrations, which have taken place over consecutive days across Melbourne, initially began on September 17 after the Victorian Government mandated vaccination for the state’s 340,000 construction workers. By the following day, local extremists with large followings had jumped on board the protests by construction workers, calling on their tens of thousands of social media followers to not only join the demonstrations, but to “wear work gear”. One demonstration ringleader boasted to his supporters that he was wearing a hi-vis jacket he last wore for a job he held 10 years ago.

Growing levels of white supremacy and neo-Nazi activity in Melbourne does not bode well for the local Jewish community. The threat from these individuals and groups has combined with high levels of antisemitism, which the perpetrators justified by blaming renewed conflict between Israel and Gazan terrorists in May and widely-publicised COVID-19 rule breaches by a handful of Jewish Melburnians in August and September.

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