Anything Goes

No, this blog is not about the musical, but it happen that most of the actions during the Anti-Racism rally happens to occur outside Princess Theatre in Melbourne, where
the Anything Goes Musical was performing. Someone on my Instagram feed find it
irony with the above image and the events that unfold on that very day, capsicum spray and excessive use of force by the police reminds me of some third world country, where law enforcement goes all out to silence the masses, just like the title Anything Goes!

I came to know about this counter-rally on Facebook, where anti-racism group plan to hold a rally to counter Reclaim Australia rally on 18th July outside Parliament House
along Spring Street, Melbourne. The previous counter-rally held in April ended with a few scuffles so I’m not expecting a peaceful rally anyway.

Of course, I’m going to use the tool that I’m familiar with to document this event, which is my iPhone. Since I have been practising mobile street photography for more than a year, how difficult can it be? So I thought.

I arrived 10am at Parliament Station trying to find my way to the rally site as Spring Street outside Parliament House was barricaded with heavy police presence. The last thing I want was to walk into the wrong camp, since Reclaim Australia is against non-white immigration, it is too obvious and dangerous for me to be hanging around in their camp.

I walked around Hotel Windsor and was greeted by the Anti-Racism volunteers asking if I’m here to attend their rally, of course I am! 

With the Anti-Racism group being separated by so many police from the Reclaim Australia protestors, I thought I will not be seeing any action from this rally, so I just hang around photographing the usual stuffs, placards, banners and the police.

Beside a little scuffle when Reclaim Australia supporters trying to get to the other side of Bourke Street to join their main group, the mood was really calm at the rally. 

I did notice a few businesses closed around the rally site, including a 7-11 store. Were they expecting something worse happening?

One hour after the rally starting time, the mood changes slightly with more police presence around Bourke Street. There were several police on horseback blocking off an alley along the main road. I could sense that the Anti-Racism group is about to set off for a march, maybe along Bourke Street towards the city centre as that is the direction they were facing.

The march started finally and I was ahead of them hoping to capture it. But out of the sudden, the group turn into Liverpool Street and this move caught me by surprise. So I ran into Crossley Street trying to reach Little Bourke Street before the group, but the group was moving very fast and I have to hurried to be ahead of them before they reach the north of Spring Street.

The face-off with the police began, I was in the middle of the line but the actions occur outside Princess Theatre. I can see capsicum spray going off at the protestors. Police officers were shouting “move back!” at everyone from the Anti-Racism protestors. As if they are protecting the protestors from Reclaim Australia, it didn’t make sense to me at that moment. The police was not expecting a face-off like this; it definitely caught them by surprise.

The police don’t know how to react; everyone was just waiting for orders. More reinforcement joined in and police on horseback started charging towards the Anti-Racism protestors without any warning. This move caused confusion among protestors and it caught me by surprise. No one from the Anti-Racism camp was trying to push forward and there were kids and elderly who could be injured if not for a few kind souls pulling them away.

After they realised the plan didn’t work out, the police on horseback moved back to their original position and hold the line there while waiting for more reinforcement.  Protestors from the Anti-Racism camp started to form up a strong line in front of the police.

The strong line formed by the Anti-Racism protestors also blocked off any entry to the Reclaim Australia protest site, resulting in a few confrontation between Anti-Racism protestors and Reclaim Australia protestors who were trying to get to the other side.

Little Bourke Street turned into a first-aid area for casualties from pepper spray. I was wondering why there were so many milk bottles on the ground until someone told me it’s the best antidote for easing the burn feeling from capsicum spray.

At about 12:20pm, a few United Patriot Front (UPF) supporters attacked casualties and medics on Little Bourke Street, they were later chased off by protestors from Anti-Racism group, a few fights broke out and protestors from Anti-Racism group set up barricades to block off the street.

3 UPF supporters tried to confront the Anti-Racism group on Spring Street, trying to breach their line and starting a fight. They were later chased down Spring Street and a fight briefly broke out before police step in with capsicum spray and arrested the 3 UPF supporters saving them from more bashing. During a heated verbal exchange, one of the UPF supporters snatched away the loud hailer from a Anti-Racism protestor and threw it into the crowd, this move angered and prompted the Anti-Racism group to take action.

By 2:00pm, most of the action was over. Leaving behind milk puddle on the street, empty bottles and placards around the area. Both camp went for their victory march, I decided I had enough action and left the scene for lunch, I was hungry after running up and down Spring Street. As I walk along Little Bourke Street towards Chinatown, many things came to my mind, I started to wonder if any of those people walking past me were racists, whose side were they on? I was shocked by the use of non-lethal weapon by the police and I was shocked there was actually a pro-racism rally held in Australia. As an Asian living in Australia, Racism does exist, no doubt about it. You can’t remove racism, but you can do a lot more to reduce it. This country has a long way to go to stand up against racism. 

Apart from emotional journey during the rally, I was quite satisfied with my documentation of the event with my iPhone. At the beginning when everything was peaceful, I had no problem focusing and getting the exposure correct. But when the party shifted to Spring Street, I did struggled at first with all the actions going on. I couldn’t focus fast enough with the ProCamera8 app on my iPhone, I doubt any app will be able to do that. I actually had a lot of images out of focus or focused on the wrong subjects as I was moving around, as well as the subjects. At times I did wish I had my DSLR with me so I can focus fast enough. The exposure was pretty straight forward with a slider controlling the shutter speed, a feature that works well for me better than a DSLR. Of course, the main advantage of an iPhone was that I could squeeze through the crowd swiftly, pepper-spray proof and the live view on the iPhone means I don’t have to stick my eyes on the viewfinder all the time, I can see what is happening around me to watch out for dangerous situation, like capsicum spray, another photographer or the lamppost. Overall, I reckon I survived the test and like what Misho Baranovic said and I quote, “The best camera is the one you know how to use”.

One of my images was featured on Red Flag in an online version as well as print version. The story was also featured on Mobile Photo Network’s Instagram feed.

Thank you for reading (if you make it to the bottom part), I took me three days to finish this blog, I should start to write less and photograph more. I just hate writing! 

Next up, unboxing of a little beast! Stay tuned!

PS: I had turn off the comment box for my blog, so if you have any question or enquiry, kindly contact me through the Contact Page on this website. Thank you.

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