Anti-racism protesters said they out-mobilized anti-Islam demonstrators across Australia Sunday.
Anti-Islam demonstrators were easily outnumbered by progressive counter-protesters in Sydney's Martin Place, according to Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle.
"The anti-racist protest was more than three times as big as the racist 'Reclaim Australia' rally," Boyle told teleSUR from Sydney.
Hundreds of progressive protesters carried signs reading, “Racism is un-Australian,” and, “After Paris: no divide and rule, fight racism, welcome refugees.”
The overwhelming turnout came despite reports police tried to stop some anti-racism activists from marching.
“After the rally police forcibly blocked a group of protesters from marching,” Green Left Weekly has reported.
Footage from Fairfax Media showed lines of police holding back the anti-racism protest.
“Protesters were thrown back into the surging crowd, which included small children as police blocked their passage,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Anti-Islam groups had hoped their demonstration in Martin Place would draw a significant turnout, as part of efforts to rejuvenate a nationwide campaign against Muslims and immigration. Martin Place was the site of a hostage crisis that gripped the city for hours in late 2014.
A larger protest took place in the outlying Melbourne suburb Melton, where anti-Islam groups have been campaigning against the construction of a mosque.
According to local newspaper the Herald Sun, the roughly 500 anti-Islam demonstrators were “outnumbered by about 1000 far-Left protesters from groups including the Socialist Alliance and No Room for Racism.”
Progressive activist group No Room for Racism said in a statement circulated on social media, “We won!”
“Our rally against racism in Melton today outnumbered the Reclaim Australia rally 2 to 1 and the defeated racist rally marched out of town. The western suburbs are suffering from unemployment, housing affordability and poverty – but the answer isn't racism or Reclaim Australia. It's ordinary people fighting together for jobs, homes and services for all!” they stated.
Protesters go their separate ways after clashing at Reclaim Australia rally in Melton pic.twitter.com/zvW6QmICH9— ABC News Melbourne (@abcnewsMelb) November 22, 2015
Some anti-Islam protesters threatened more violence if Melton's mosque is built.
“We’re going to burn every mosque down if they build them ... Let’s stick it up them,” said one anti-Islam protester identified by the Herald Sun as Farmer John.
Ahead of Sunday's protests, police in Melbourne uncovered an explosives manual and weapons during a raid of the home of a prominent right-wing activist.
Reclaim Australia thugs were caught with weapons today for Sunday's hate rally. Why aren't media hounding white leaders for condemnation?— lana del neigh (@LanaDelNeigh_) November 19, 2015
State premier Daniel Andrews condemned the anti-Islam protests.
“If you are out there peddling hate, you are not a protester, you are just a bigot,” Andrews said, according to Australia's ABC.
Similar protests took place in Australia's other major cities, with large crowds of both anti-racism and anti-Islam demonstrators.
The latest round of anti-Islam protests followed another bout of right-wing rallies earlier this year that ended in violence. The rallies were largely organized by anti-Islam group Reclaim Australia and its hardline splinter group, the United Patriots Front (UPF).
Both Reclaim Australia and the UPF have been accused of racism and harboring neo-Nazis among their ranks. One of the UPF's leaders, Neil Erikson, plead guilty in 2014 to charges stemming from a series of abusive, anti-Semitic phone calls.
According to the AAP, the judge in the case stated Erikson stalked the rabbi out of “prejudice, if not hatred, toward the victim because of his race.”