Melbourne Neo-Nazis Target Drag Performer At Family-Friendly Youth Fest
A family-friendly youth festival to celebrate end of school holidays in the inner Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds, that featured drag performances, was targeted by a group of neo-Nazis on September 30, 2022.
Trigger Warning: This story has details of homophobic, transphobic and anti-Semitic comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
The men, suspected to be members of the National Socialist Network, founded by Australian neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell, shouted homophobic and transphobic slogans and performed offensive Hitler salutes, before a determined DJ and a group of anti-fascist activists drowned out their sounds with music and counter-slogans.
Victoria’s Minister for Equality Harriet Shing told Star Observer that the neo-Nazi protests were “distressing, offensive and illegal”.
Drag Performances Cut Short
The neo-Nazi protests resulted in Melbourne-based drag queen Belial B’Zarr being unable to go ahead with their performance at the event.
“On Friday I had the absolute pleasure of attending Youth Fest at Queens Park where I performed my bubble act and planned to perform some jazz and lipsync numbers. Unfortunately, not everyone is a fan of face paint, glitter, puppies and bubbles,” B’Zarr posted on Instagram.
The banners called the drag performer “demon flesh” and sported the usual “groomer” insults.
“Neo-N*Zi white supremacists even went to the effort of printing a custom banner for me (totally misspelling my surname) whilst screaming about my drag acts.”
B’Zarr said they had been subjected to hate messages on social media, and urged followers for help with reporting the hateful comments.
Neo-Nazis Dressed In Black, Perform Hitler Salutes
Police were quickly in action.
The "Master Race".
— CJ Murrumbeena (@CJMurrumbeena) September 30, 2022
The event, billed as Youth Fest 2022, was held at Queen’s Park in Moonee Ponds on September 30, and featured an ukulele workshop, food trucks, an eco glitter station, live music and drag performances.
Around 1 pm, around 12 neo-Nazis, dressed in black and masks to protect their identities, arrived at the park, unfurled anti-LGBTQI banners and started shouting offensive slogans.
Melbourne-based activist Chris Johnson was at the event and said it was a “quiet day” with delightful drag performances before the neo-Nazis turned up. Johnson, posted videos and photos on social media.
A counter protest has arrived at Queen's Park Moonee Ponds.
The Nazis are upset… yelling homophobic slurs. pic.twitter.com/qscZiIwQHa
— CJ Murrumbeena (@CJMurrumbeena) September 30, 2022
“They unfurled anti-Semitic, homophobic and transphobic banners, and started chanting neo-Nazi chants,” Johnson told Star Observer. “Police kept the neo-Nazis and event participants separated, but otherwise allowed the NSN to chant, give Hitler signs, and take photos unchallenged.”
The event DJ however found a way to troll the neo-Nazis, turning up the music to drown their chants, with songs including Let It Go from Frozen. Anti-fascist activists arrived and soon outnumbered the neo-Nazis.
According to Johnson, the neo-Nazis stayed for around three hours, before leaving. “The community response was wonderful, but it’s disappointing that police allow obvious neo-Nazis to disrupt events and intimidate the community.”
These disgusting humans showed up at a queer-friendly youth event at Queen’s Park, Moonee Ponds today. Their banner states drag performers are pedophiles, and they’ve been giving the Nazi salute. Be a shame if someone identified these sacks of crap !! pic.twitter.com/dn7yI8WYHT
— Steph Briese (she/her) (@StephBriese1) September 30, 2022
‘Hate Speech Not Welcome’
Moonee Valley Councillor Rose Iser posted to social media after the event. “Unfortunately, the inclusive values embedded in the entertainment attracted hate-speech and intolerance in the form of a handful of extremist protestors,” said Iser, adding, “The Moonee Ponds police did a magnificent job keeping everyone safe from intimidating chants from people who really should have had better things to do on a sunny Friday.”
Councillor Iser sent out a message to the community, after the event. “Everyone is welcome in Moonee Valley – but not hate-speech and intolerance”
Minister Shing told Star Observer anti-trans political debates were making the neo-Nazis bolder.
“It’s distressing, it’s offensive, and it’s illegal,” the Minister said of the protests. “In many ways, this is not surprising. We have seen a steady increase in homophobic and transphobic activity, which has been fuelled by public debate from people who are all too happy to make LGBTQI+ people into the subject of lowest common denominator, political point scoring.”
Nazi Swastikas Banned In Victoria
In recent years, the Dan Andrews-led Victorian government has enacted a number of law reforms to outlaw discrimination against LGBTQI people and introduced legislation banning Swastikas and other Nazi hate symbols in the state.
Memeber of Legislative Council for Southern Metropolitan region and Labor candidate for Albert Park Nina Taylor, was deputy chair of the Parliamentary committee that conducted an inquiry into hate crimes and recommended a ban on Swastikas.
Taylor described the conduct of the neo-Nazis on Friday as “appalling”
“It’s extremely disappointing. As to whether it is representative of the majority of Victorians, No. But nevertheless the extent to which it is representative of certain groups within Victoria, it’s all the more important and reinforces the fact that we need to be very clear about what is acceptable behaviour in our state,” said Taylor.
Drag performer B’Zarr said the protests were not going to stop them. “When I started drag I wanted to become the person I wish I had growing up. Standing as my authentic self in the face of those who’d seek to dismantle that makes me feel I’m one step closer to being that person.”
B’Zarr posted on Instagram, thanking their fans and the community for reaching out with words of support. “My community has been so essential at this time and the outpouring of love and support has been phenomenal. Hate won’t divide us and this act of hatred has only affirmed me in what I do,” B’Zarr added.