Anti-Burqa Protest in King George Square Meets Counter Protest

The Protests

I recently grabbed my camera and headed down to an anti-burqa protest being organised by APDM (Australian Patriots Defence Movement). What was particularly interesting about this protest, from a photographic journalism perspective, was the fact that a counter-protest had been called by left wing groups, to protest the implied racism of an anti-burqa demonstration. This seemed like a good opportunity to get some news worthy photos.

Upon arriving I found the protest already underway. The anti-burqa protesters were outnumbered by anti-racism protesters by about 4-1. Nevertheless they were plugging away undeterred. As the day progressed the protesters got noisier and more aggressive, but the police were doing a good job of keeping combative participants separated. I moved through the crowd unhindered, along with about 5 other photographers and a guy doing sound recordings, attempting to get the interesting shots. There were some interesting exchanges: a few clashes that brought the police in to separate combatants (but no real fisticuffs), a lot of slogan chanting, lines of opposing protestors drawn up against each other, and even heated discussions with protestors attempting to convince each other of their position. I found this one of the most interesting interactions of the day. Even amongst the heated exchanges, people from the opposite sides were still prepared to try and use reason to convince the other of their point of view. Compared to the chaos that was only starting to unfold in Brixton London on that day, this was a very civilised protest.

At one point there seemed to be a police preference for guarding the APDM from the left wing protestors, but I think this was unintentional. I did overhear a Senior-Constable instructing his men to ensure they kept out of the melee unless a specific danger of violence appeared imminent, so as to avoid any appearance of favouritism. The police appeared restrained and polite when dealing with these instances.

As the day wore on tempers wore thinner. At one point, a senior member of the APDM ranks raised his hand towards a female anti-racism protestor as if to hit her (but didn’t). I wasn’t able to get a photograph of this particular incident, but apparently he was shoved first by another protestor. You can see more here: I only came in on the tail end of this incident so cannot provide a full account of what happened. This same person had also resorted to name calling, picking on one colourfully dressed young man in particular, referring to him as tinkerbell and inferring that he was homosexual.

Behaviour wasn’t perfect on the anti-racism side either. A couple of male anti-racism protestors were particularly provocative, though not violent. Later in the day a woman had raised a sign saying “this guy is an idiot” while standing next to one of the anti-burqa protestors. I’m not sure what the point of this was.

However apart from these and a couple of heated exchanges where the police interceded, both groups of protestors were surprisingly restrained given their close quarters and the extent of yelling and chanting going on.

I eventually ran out of battery power (I had two old inca Canon batteries – which only managed 160 odd photos each – I expected 400 atleast going by the performance of the batteries in the Olympus, which I had neglected to bring along), and kicking myself for not having bought batteries earlier, ran down to JB HiFi to get a new battery. By the time I got back the APDM group were walking away from the square, apparently having had enough, and the anti-racism protestors were having a last cheer before moving off themselves.

(Full Flickr set click here)

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators

Anti-Muslim Protest and Anti-Racism Demonstrators


~ by Max Riethmuller on August 14, 2011.

6 Responses to “Anti-Burqa Protest in King George Square Meets Counter Protest”

  1. Ban sunglasses and caps, as aren’t they use in robberies?

  2. Maybe even clothes should be banned, since they obscure identifying marks?

  3. I fail to see how people wanting to ban burqas as being racist. Al-Azhar, the leading institute of islamic learning supports the banning of Burqas as does many Islamic nations and most do not support their use. Add to that the potential security risks etc then there are many valid arguments. To me personally however I see this as a case of discrimination, against all others who do have to remove face coverings such as motorcyclists. True equality is one rule for all people and at present this is not the case.

    • It’s quite a different thing to ask a motorcyclist to remove his helmet when entering a bank than it is a muslim women to remove her burqa. The motorcyclist is not compelled to wear his helmet for any reason other than the riding of his motorcycle. The muslim women is compelled by her religious beliefs and is commiting a sin in her own eyes if she does not comply. You and I do not agree with this, and as you have said many Muslim countries themselves do not believe the burqa is necessary (however please point out the Muslim country that bans it’s use?). But for that woman, due to her right to freedom of religion, wearing the burqa should be allowed.

      Whether she has to remove her burqa whilst entering a bank is not a legal issue, it is up to the bank itself to decide if this is necessary. Protest the bank if you think it is “discrimination”. Requiring that all burqa wearing women throughout Australia cease being allowed to wear the burqa in public is a gross over-reaction.

      I concede that in respect of the burqa issue alone, it is not racist to seek it’s banning. It is however religious discrimination. But the problem is, the group who organised the Anti-Burqa protest, have demonstrated that they ARE racist through the expression of their ideas at other forums, so it’s quite obvious that their objection to the burqa comes at least partly from their racist beliefs.

      Let’s examine the bank issue and the security issue a little closer shall we? Just to show that the supposed “security” issue is a red herring:

      1. obsuring of identity: There are many ways to obscure identity that don’t require use of a burqa. Sunglasses, false beards, low wide brimmed hats, eye glasses, a man dressing as a women etc. The burqa doesn’t give those intent on hiding their identity any advantage whatsoever – if they can’t use the burqa, they will use any number of other means.

      2. Undue Attention: a person intent on harm, whether a bank robber or terrorist, will not dress as an Islamic burqa wearing woman. This draws too much attention. He or she will use a disguise that causes them to blend into the crowd. The only instance where burqa’s have been used as disguises is in Islamic countries where the burqa is common and goes unnoticed.

      3. The motorcyclist and their helmet: The motorcyclist is required to remove their helmet because they can do so without undue discomfort, pain or embarassment. People with legitimate but identity obscuring face coverings are allowed in banks for example bandaged burn victoms, bearded gentlemen.

      The reason that the Anti-Burqa campaign is discriminatory, is because it is based on an uniformed knee-jerk reaction to something that isn’t actually an issue. It relies on inaccurate stereotypes to make it’s case and there-in lies the bigotry.

  4. Is it okay to insert part of this on my personal web site if perhaps I post a reference point to this web-site?

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