Chris Minns is right to strongly oppose Nazis – they have no place in our city

It is one thing to challenge or defend how and when we celebrate Australia Day. It is quite another to co-opt the holiday to promote Nazism.

The long weekend just gone brought the sickening sight of neo-Nazis on Sydney streets. Many were from interstate,as the get-together was a national gathering to coincide with Australia Day on Friday and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday.

This horrible event was rightfully condemned both by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Chris Minns,and the response from NSW Police was swift. The Raptor Squad and the Public Order and Riot Squad were both deployed alongside local police.

A man is escorted from North Sydney railway station on Australia Day.

A man is escorted from North Sydney railway station on Australia Day.SMH

On Friday,police boarded a train at North Sydney station to deal with a group of about 60 black-clad men,many wearing balaclavas and carrying shields and flags. Police issued a public order to prevent the group from attending Australia Day events,issued 54 rail fines for offensive behaviour on the spot and arrested five people who were later fined at the police station.

Later that day,the neo-Nazis marched through northern Sydney under close police observation,carrying banners that said “Australia for the white man” alongside Australian and British flags.

Over the weekend,police broke up several more neo-Nazi gatherings,including at a scout hall in North Turramurra on Saturday night,at a park in Artarmon next to a children’s soccer camp on Sunday morning and at a community centre in Telopea on Sunday afternoon.

An extremist group also posted a video showing silhouetted figures driving around the city in a van singing about being warriors and shouting “blood and honour”.

Among them was Thomas Sewell,30,the self-appointed leader of the National Socialist Network and a violent criminal who was among a group that attacked three bushwalkers in Victoria in 2021.

While Melbourne has been grappling with neo-Nazi gatherings for some time,the scenes over the Australia Day weekend were unusual for Sydney – and they were highly concerning.

It should go without saying that Nazism is a hate-filled and racist ideology that has no place in our vibrant multicultural city. If public displays of Nazism go unchallenged,the racists are emboldened,and segments of our community are inevitably intimidated.

A key tool the police used was NSW Public Order certifications,which meant the men could not hide behind anonymity. Minns warned young people there could be lifelong consequences for getting involved with neo-Nazis because police had the power to rip off balaclavas and name and shame them. Minns said every neo-Nazi stopped by police had been forced to reveal their identities,and it came as a shock to some of them that they could be unmasked.

These laws have previously been used against other groups such as environmental protesters. While there is a need for a proper public debate about whether anti-protest laws go too far,there is a big difference between peaceful protest and spreading violence and hate. TheHerald supports giving police a strong mandate to help combat emerging support for Nazism and other violent extremism.

Minns also said he was open to strengthening anti-Nazi laws to include prohibiting gestures such as the Sieg Heil salute. In NSW,it is a criminal offence to display a Nazi flag. The penalty for doing so is a fine of up to $22,000 or up to 12 months in jail.

Minns is right to do everything in his power to stamp out this type of behaviour,but the fight against extremism won’t be won by police action and tough words from politicians alone.

We need a national reckoning against the appeal of this dangerous ideology,especially to young men,and how people are recruited and radicalised.

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