Far-Right Figures On Campus12 September 2018
Last Friday, three right-wing figures, one of whom was wearing a shirt which read “it’s okay to be white”, came onto the Parkville campus claiming to be interviewing students about the recent Liberal Party leadership spill. The trio was confronted by students and staff before leaving the campus.
A video of the argument has since been posted online. The trio claimed to be from “Australian News Network”, an outlet that shares the same logo as the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA), and consisted of Avi Yemini, a fringe figure in the Melbourne Jewish community, Debbie Robinson, president of the ALA, and the man wearing the shirt who runs the Facebook page “The Young Conservative”, who identifies as a “moderate right conservative activist”.
The argument first began when University of Melbourne students Mindi Suter and Anneke Demanuele, at the time campaigning in the student elections for Melbourne Socialists, shouted at the trio on Professor’s Walk.
They called the Young Conservative “racist” and pointed out that his shirt represented the ideas of the alt-right. They continued to condemn the shirt and connotations of the shirt, and were joined by several other students and a staff member.
“Are we just going to ignore people who are trying to spread hate speech and politics that directly seeks to oppress people?” Demanuele said, when speaking to Farrago. “We wanted them to know they weren’t welcome.”
“I thought it was important that they were called out,” Suter said. “The phrase is a dog whistle to the far right globally, and it’s important that we don’t just let them get away with feigning innocence.”
The Young Conservative, self-described as a “lone activist”, said that he was “not surprised somebody was offended about the shirt”. He said he wore it onto the campus because he thought “it might have given rise to some interesting debate”.
“The slogan [it’s okay to be white] is a well-known far-right saying, which is about justifying their own white supremacist ideas,” Demanuele said.
Another student, Andie Moore, tried to explain to the trio that the slogan is “meant to prompt people to think whites are persecuted, which is key to establishing the white genocide theory”.
Moore also said while they tried to confront Yemini about his past affiliations with white supremacists, it was not picked up by the microphone and it seemed to them that “Robinson and the Young Conservative were more intent on capturing ‘triggered lefties’ than having any conversation”.
Demanuele also said they were “obviously trying to be provocative”.
The video is posted on both Facebook and Youtube under the title “Just chatting to Uni students UNTIL THIS HAPPENED…”. Moore believes that the leadership spill interviews were “clearly a cover”, and that the Young Conservative was “just trying to set people up to talk about his T-shirt”.
Although claiming to be on campus to talk to students about the leadership spill, the trio left quickly after the argument in the video.
“We scrapped the idea of interviewing anybody else once the argument started because we thought that would be of interest enough to our audience,” the Young Conservative said.
An incident occurred earlier this year when two men were found on campus handing out leaflets reading the same message, “it’s okay to be white”.