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  • Anti-racism protesters outnumbered anti-Islam rallies in Sydney and Melboune.

    Anti-racism protesters outnumbered anti-Islam rallies in Sydney and Melboune. | Photo: Peter Boyle / Green Left Weekly

Progressive activists have declared victory after easily outnumbering anti-Islam protesters from right-wing groups Reclaim Australia and UPF in Sydney and Melbourne.

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.

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.

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.”

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