“Australia, what have they done to you?” hushed controversial right-wing journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, greeting his Monday audience in Melbourne with leather jacket, his trademark sunglasses and the distant rumblings of staunch left-wing protestors just outside the hall. “You used to have a really good reputation, but we’re here to discuss your fall from grace.”
With a provocative comedy act littered with bait jabbing at Islam, “wank stain” art from Australia’s Indigenous community, “prick” former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the “unfuckable” columnist for The Guardian Clementine Ford, it was the Victorian Police, outside the Melbourne Pavilion, who accused protestors of “Kardashian-style politics” after riots erupted.
Police, armed with riot gear, body protection, and capsicum spray, barricaded the outside of the pavilion to separate a heckling mob of protestors from Yiannopoulos’ attendees.
Around 6 o’clock, shortly after former Liberal Representative Ross Cameron took to the stage, two men began to beat one another into the pavement ground, assaulting fans and residents in the street using sticks, bottles, rocks and ignited fireworks, leaving two arrested, while several police officers received minor injuries.
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said several hundred police were involved in the clashes, calling the event “a drain on resourcing.”
Speaking to Melbourne radio 3AW, Leane said: “We’ve always got Kardashian-style politics now and these people know that you have to do something outrageous in order to get it on to YouTube and seen across the world.”
Those entering the event paid between $75 for students and $995 for a backstage VIP ticket, with tickets being checked by officers before they could approach the doors.
Notable attendees donned shirts that read “Hillary For Prison,” “InfoWars.com,” as well as the libertarian and conservative flags from The Gadsden to those that read “Trump/Pence”:
Others were clad with red “Make America Great Again” hats, an iconic attire from the 2016 campaign of United States President Donald J. Trump, who Yiannopoulos often credits as his inspiring “daddy”:
While others were met with the expected verbal abuse and left-wing chants, attendees such as conservative Ashleigh Ramshaw-Carroll, pictured above, were approached by leftist protestors only to have their hats, among other property stolen.
After the show, protestors began to block a nearby key road, connecting the pavilion venue with the Newmarket railway station in less than a ten-minute walk. This left police to escort patrons to cars, avoiding rocks and fires being set on the street, while others proceeded to find alternative public transport.
Neil Erikson, from right-wing nationalist group Patriot Blue, said he was at the protest “to defend free speech.” He said: “We were basically coming to the Milo event and we were attacked so we had to defend ourselves.”
Chris DiPasquale, notable figure from the curiously named “campaign against racism and fascism,” said his group “want to send a positive message”:
“We’re against racism, we’re against sexism, transphobia, homophobia, everything that Milo stands for we’re against that,” he told the ABC, who did not question their reasoning behind the violence.
“There was offensive behaviour on both sides,” Leane explained. “We certainly would rather have those police doing other things in the community, providing crime prevention, road safety and other activities they could have been doing.”
“I think both sides need to have a good hard look at themselves,” he concluded.
Originally, Yiannopoulos and his Penthouse Magazine Associates were to email attendees seven days before the event, however emails were never sent out. According to Yiannopoulos, the venue for the sold-out show was kept secret, until the very last minute, due to concerns regarding organized protests and potential harm to patrons.
The best-selling author says he was forced to change venues three times before choosing Melbourne’s pavilion later in the afternoon.
Before his Sydney event, which saw more than seven police officers injured and several protestors arrested, Mr. Yiannopoulos told the radio station 2GB left-wing protesters were to blame for “being violent to stop people’s speech.”
“The left really showed us who they are. They attack the police, they attacked other people, they attacked journalists — they showed us they are petulant babies.”
Last week, Victoria’s senator for the left-wing Greens party, Richard Di Natale, issued a letter to the speakers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, asking for Yiannopoulos to be banned from speaking in Canberra’s Parliament House, after being offered invitation from Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm.
I’ve written to the Presiding Officers of the House and Senate asking them to revoke permission for Milo Yiannopoulos to attend and speak at Parliament House. We should not be granting a forum to someone who makes a living by peddling racist, sexist and abusive views. pic.twitter.com/yqeitw3Ddw— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) November 28, 2017
The Greens leader cited “racist, sexist and abusive behaviour” as reason to revoke his free speech rights. This request was unsuccessful.
Fellow Senate backbencher Sarah Hanson-Young echoed similar accusations.
“It astounds me that a member of our Parliament would roll out the red carpet to a white supremacist and pedophilia apologist,” she said last Thursday afternoon, according to Daily Mail Australia. “A man who travels the world spreading racist and sexist drivel, who believes there’s no such thing as rape culture is not welcome in our safe and respectful house of democracy.”
Senator Leyonjhelm, the libertarian from Sydney, told his Greens colleague she had very little regard for free speech.
“This highlights the difference between you and me,” he replied.
“Even though you spout such nonsense, promoting division and seeking to enforce compliance with your way of thinking through censorship and exclusion, I will defend your right to speak. Milo has the same right to speak as you. It’s not compulsory for you to listen or to agree. Get over it.”