Something really ugly happened in Hobart today ...
It started in Franklin Square.
There were about fifteen of them draped in Australian flags, surrounded by probably thirty police.
Wearing an Australian army cammo baseball cap the now dis-endorsed Tasmanian leader of the United Patriots Front, Danny Bell, got up with his megaphone and spewed racist vitriol to the small crowd of supporters - protected by more police than they were in numbers.
Around the perimeter were probably double the amount of people who had turned up to basically denounce the racist messages being broadcast.
It was heartening in a way that twice as many people would turn up on a Saturday morning to show that they disagreed with the xenophobic messages of hate being transmitted by what was really only a few people.
But what was disturbing was the police presence and its ridiculously heavy-handed attitude. The police basically cordoned off the rascist protesters from those who turned up to show support for racial tolerance.
For the Tasmanian police the threat was those who had turned up to actually say: Hang on let us not be racists. They were the ones the police saw as a threat. What kind of message does that send ... the state is endorsing racism ... ?
It is fine for old Danny to get up with his megaphone and decry the evils of Halal-endorsed Vegemite.
But it is not fine to stand there and say this guy is basically full of shit ... and the police will stop you saying that.
I am a journalist. I live in Hobart and went there pretty much out of curiosity.
But what I didn’t expect was when I approached the speaker of what can only be described as anti-Islamic vitriol, namely Danny Bell, to simply ask his name, I was threatened with arrest by the officers of the Tasmania Police.
They asked for a press card and my driver’s licence, both of which I produced immediately. Still they said I had no right to be there and refused me the right to even take a photograph.
What the hell?
I have worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burma - the most repressive regimes in the world - and never have I dealt with such intransigent blockheads as Tasmanian police defending the right of racists to be racists.
Really these Tasmanian police need a crash course in public relations. Redneck is the word that comes to mind. You have ten maybe fifteen anti-Islamic protesters, twenty five armed police and maybe fifty curious anti-racism bystanders.
There is no conflict. Everybody is respectful.
But the Tasmanian police are acting as though the anti-racists are the source of trouble and the racists are to be shepherded and protected from the “rabble” who have turned up to merely express their will that it is not cool to denigrate people because of their religion or ethnic background.
Is this who we are?
Fine if racists want to have rallies and stomp around Salamanca on a sunny Saturday morning ... whatever. We do live in a democracy and we are in principle allowed to say what we want.
If that means getting a megaphone and saying Muslims will enslave you, however implausible that is, then, fine, go ahead.
But when you have the Tasmanian police refusing to even allow accredited journalists to take a photo or even ask the name of this bloke spewing this vitriol then something is seriously wrong.
To those idiot heavy-handed police I can only say this ...
Have you ever put yourself in danger for a principle?
Have you ever been to Iraq or Afghanistan?
Have you ever actually thought about the fundamental human rights you are employed by the taxpayer to enforce.
No I think not ... Certainly I didn’t see that today ...
I saw a pack of rednecks being defended by their fellow travellers, who happened to be police.
And frankly those police hiding behind their knife-proof vests, pistols and capsicum spray are thugs and cowards.
I’d like to see you in Baghdad ...
Cowards. Rednecks and cowards.
You are playing to the lowest common denominator. Lift your game or remain the redneck backwater the rest of the country thinks you are anyway.