Melbourne Metaxas Meltdown

The throng at the church door

Eric Metaxas, poster boy for the religious right, was in Melbourne last night. His presence sparked a somewhat rowdy protest.

The Australian Christian Lobby imported Metaxas as their Sydney conference keynote speaker, but he also gave public talks in Brisbane and, last night, at the Scots Church in Melbourne. His appearances have been met with small but potent protests from G.A.Y.* activists and their friends. Brisbane held a silent candlelit vigil, but outside the Scots Church in Melbourne last night things got rather more boisterous.

Here’s a few personal accounts of the event.

Michael Barnett was there and photographed the protest. He arrived at around 6:30pm to find a group of protesters marching from the church fountain in Collins Street to the steps of the entrance on Russell Street.  A large group of protesters had already congregated around the steps, and a number of photographers and videographers set up on the island in the middle of Russell Street.

filming

Attendees for the talk had to make their way through the crowd to the church entrance, while the Equal Love team co-ordinated protest chants. After about half an hour a handful of police officers turned up, pushing their way through the crowd to be make a passage for the attendees.

A generally peaceful event turned nasty when a Reclaim Australia trouble-maker made their presence felt.

melee

As I was taking photos at a slight distance from the steps I wasn’t able to see clearly what was happening but there were a few people who seemed to be louder and more aggressive than the rest of the protesters.  Some people were also being pushed somewhat vigorously by the police away from the steps.

Around 7:17pm a scuffle broke out and one of the protesters ran out from the crowd into the middle of Russell Street followed by a larger group of people and was pushed the ground where he was kicked and generally roughed up.  It looked like a couple of police officers pulled out their capsicum spray at this stage and may have used it.

There were a small number of people with bandanas or other coverings over their face and looked somewhat out of place at an Equal Love rally.  One person in the vicinity also had an Anonymous mask on, but unclear if he was with these other people.  I heard later from some of the Equal Love team that there were some Reclaim Australia people present who were creating a nuisance.

Sammy Cameron didn’t witness capsicum spray being used by the police, but said she wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

Sammy Cameron

Sammy Cameron

There were about half a dozen aggressive pushy shovey idiots on “our side”; I believe they are an anti-fascist group and would prefer they stayed away in the future. They were yelling at the police, but the police were patient and calm and much more respectful towards them than any reasonable person could have expected.

Some of the bigots attending the talk tried to push through one of the large flags being held by about four or five people. They were aggressive and angry. There was some heavy pushing and shoving and I had to move away from this area to prevent being hurt by them. I’m not aware of anyone being injured, but it’s possible a few people (on both sides) could be sporting a few minor bruises this morning.

crowd on steps

There were only two police when we got there. I listened to the police call for assistance, but he told head office that things were under control. Two more police arrived, but they really needed more. Within half an hour the riot squad arrived, they blocked the roads, and there ended up being about 25 police, a van and about six cars. I’d guess there were about 100 protesters, and maybe 250 bigots.

riot squad

The bigots had to run the gauntlet of the protestors, and a number clearly look distressed. I did feel a little sorry for them (because even though they hate us, I still love them anyway for they are human beings), especially the dozen or so children whose parents thought it was a good idea to take them along. WTF!

At one stage they opened the side gate to let people in. My friend and I then went to that spot, I spoke politely to the people on the other side of the gate, and they decided to close it off. About a dozen more people attempted to enter via the back, but the bigots had decided not to reopen the gate.

A few of them complained to my friend and I, “but we have rights too” – lol. We told them that now they might know how we feel, that having your privileges taken away isn’t a nice feeling at all. They all looked dumbfounded and confused, had no comeback, and headed back around the front to run the gauntlet.

Peter Veitch is a straight ally, a “proudly evolved atheist” from a Seventh Day Adventist background. He made his way into the gathering, and made a silent protest inside, before joining the throng in the street.

peter expelled

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Christine Kennewell

‘I was observing from a distance across the road. I have been following all the rallies with interest as I’m currently studying urban spaces. What I can tell you is that the rally had a distinctly different feel. From where I was standing there seemed to be at least two different group behaviors. I could see a large gathering of activists protesting for equality and child safety matters and who I recognized from other rallies.

Then there were others. I noticed some people amongst these seemed to break out from time to time in other types of coordinated chanting. Then I noticed a shift and some kind of scuffle. I immediately moved away and so did a few others near me.

Before this I would describe the rally as of the same tone as previous ones. It appeared to be a peaceful protest and exercise of people’s different opinions in a space where approximately 6-7 police officers were by then in attendance. I did note at one stage that only one officer was stationed on the steps. The remainder were along the outer perimeter reminding people gently along the curb to step onto the curb and be mindful of traffic. I remember thinking this seemed to be their main safety concern.

Thanks. Best.

 

Many more photos from Michael Barnett.  His photos may be freely used for purposes promoting equality. Permission is explicitly denied for any purpose opposing equality. Unstamped hi-res images available on request. Credit to Michael Barnett if reproducing images.https://picasaweb.google.com/mikeybear69/6278238530245131073

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)