Removed from the Lakemba Protest – a woman’s story

This guest post comes from Deb Dalby. She was with one of the individuals removed from the protest in Lakemba because - based on our discussions with police on the night - "the presence of Australian may possibly incite violence". Deb's story validates the police position.

Hundreds of Muslims have gathered in the western Sydney suburb of Lakemba to protest against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published an image of the Islamic prophet Mohammed after jihadists murdered 12 staff members.

I have read a lot of peoples accounts of what happened last night at Lakemba. I was going to write this last night, but to frank, by the time I got home it had been a very long day and all I wanted was a shower just to feel clean and human again. Im thankful that I didn’t put ‘pen to paper’ last night as it has given me more time to reflect on what happened and how I feel about it.

I decided quite early on in the week that I would attend the Lakemba Rally. I decided almost as soon as I saw the advert advertising for the event. I didn’t know if I would end up going on my own, or if there would be a group of people going, but either way I was going. I went with two aims in mind. First, I wanted to be able to see for myself what went on and then compare that to what the media portrayed. Secondly, I wanted, just by my presence, to make it known to Hiz Bt Tahir that Lakemba remains Australian soil and due to the democratic country we live in I have the right to be present in Lakemba, even amongst ‘their’ rallies.

In the end, I went with four other people in my car and ended up meeting an additional four people whom we drove into Lakemba with. I took no placards, no signs, no weapons. I took with me my mobile phone, my digital camera, car keys, bottle of drink all neatly packed in my pink back pack. I had decided my position would be quiet. I would take photos and video footage to be able to accurately show what had occurred. I was dressed in a pair of black pants, dressy tank top and thongs. Not the sort of outfit that could be deemed provocative. In fact it was the same attire I had worn to work earlier that day, as I hadn’t had time to go home and shower before leaving for the rally.

So at about 8:00pm we arrived in Lakemba. We parked our cars, climbed out and started heading down to wards the cenotaph. We had parked about 3 blocks away from the cordoned off area. Walking down Haldon Street Lakemba, was where I really received my first impression of Lakema. Garbage, dirty mattresses, tyres, all littered the street. It was putrid to say the least. The fronts of the houses we walked past were equally as vile. The house fronts were unkempt, and not just form a weeks worth of business, but a lifetimes worth of laziness. The people that lived in these houses displayed such a lack of pride in their homes. At one point we walked past the offices for the local member for Labor, Jihad Dib. This was not the Australia I knew, where most Australians are proud of their homes. Of course there are the few Aussies that take no pride in their homes, but not streets of them, certainly not suburbs full of them.

Half way walking down the street, we realised that perhaps we had parked too far away. If things got out of control we wanted to be able to leave with haste. So four of us, myself included, walked back to the car and moved it down to the street that runs parallel to the railway track. We were barely 100m away from area the rally was being held now.

We walked the 100m to the rally and met up with the others we had come with. As we approached the rally area, I could see quite a few males kneeling down in the middle of the street praying. The area that was being used for the rally was the cenotaph, right out the front of Lakemba Station. When we arrived, the Cenotaph has already been cordoned off with barricades. A larger area surrounding the cordoned off Cenotaph was being used as a ‘platform’ as such, where microphones had been set up, the Islamic flag (white flag with black Arabic writing on it) was set in the ground.

From this point forward I can only recount events as I saw them. As you can imagine, and I’m sure appreciate, is that whilst I went with 8 ‘white Australians’ (and I only use this term to ensure you can differentiate the difference between the Muslim men that were there and us), I end up meeting about another 12 people there and so the 20 of us were spread out over an area of about 10 metres, and there was a lot of noise, (between the sounds of the music and the chants and the speakers), so obviously I can’t tell you what the other 20 white Australians saw or encountered. I can only tell you what happened to me and what I saw.

So here it is:

There was a concrete slab that I had chosen to sit down on, simply because I had my digital camera and needed to insert the memory card into it. So I did. From then on I continually swapped between using my digital and my iPhone for videoing purposes. When I wasn’t using my digital camera I handed that to a member of our group to mind while I got the video footage. I managed to obtain both video and some photos. During this time, another member that I was with, pointed out to me that a ‘D’ was standing right behind me. I turned and saw the plain clothes detective, duly noted and then went about securing the photos and video footage I wanted.

During this time, I was surrounded on all three sides with Muslim men. In front, to my right side and behind me. To my left was the 20 white Australian’s that I came with. I took photos of the chants, one speaker who spoke about Muslims not tolerating the abuse of their prophet. Inwardly, I cringed hearing them. But I remained fairly silent. Although I am sure my *eye rolls* gave away me feelings.

From the moment the event started, almost promptly at 8:30, I would have sat there taking photos and taking video footage for about 20 minutes, perhaps a little more, but not much. The next thing I was aware of was the people (some of the 20 white Australians) I had come with getting up an moving, no, leaving the area we were in. Startled, I looked up and saw police officers surround me, from (what appeared to be) the tactical response group asking me to move. I was stunned, automatically assuming I and done something wrong. Then, as soon as I had that brief thought, my senses returned and knowing I had done nothing wrong, questioned the officers as to why I had to move. I was told to “move away from the area and I’ll tell you why you are being asked to leave”. I realised at that point, while I was picking up my back pack to move and follow their instructions, I realised that I didn’t have my digital camera and told the officers that I was happy to move but I just needed to locate my camera. As it was dark and my camera was black, it was difficult to see if I had it, or it was in my back pack. So the officer, sensing my panic shone his mag light on my bag, where I became aware that I didn’t have my camera. The Officer made me equally aware that I wasn’t to stay there and try and locate it. I hoped against hope that the other member I had been sitting next to had picked up my phone. Were not forcibly removed (i.e., the use of force). At no point did any of the police officers touch me. But they certainly made sure I was guided out of that area in a way that I couldn’t avoid nor escape the path they wanted me to take, to the back of the rally and back out on to Haldon Street, on the top of the bridge that goes across the railway line.

At this point, when I met up with the other members I was reunited with my camera, only to be made aware that one of the 20 white Australians had been taken in a paddy van. That member had travelled with me to the event, and before we had arrived at the event, we had made a pact that ‘we came together, we stay together, and we leave together’. At this point the police that was closest to me, made it clear to us that the member had NOT been arrested. That member had in fact been removed from the area for his own safety and had been taken to Campsie Police station where he would be released. The same Officer made it clear to us that we were being asked to be removed for our own safety as the police had been advised that were about to be ‘attacked’. We were advised that we should attend Campsie Police station to collect our friend, and strongly advised not to return to Lakemba. A member (perhaps two, I’m not clear on this point), followed us back to our cars to ensure our safety.

From there we headed directly to Campsie Police Station, where we picked up the member after waiting for about 5-10 minutes max for him to be released. Once he had been released we spent a few moments getting details on what had happened, and then getting a couple of photos out the front of the Police Station for posterity. We all left and drove home, dropping members off to their respective homes. I was home by about 11:30.

That’s the actual chronology of events as I saw it.

Now let me tell you about the event itself.

I am not very good at estimating figures at rallies. I have seen the figure of 700-800 people attended. I would concur it was a fairly accurate guess. The make up of people that attended were predominately male muslim men. That being said, there were females and children that attended. The females, or at least the females that I saw, were standing towards the back of the rally, in fact across the street in front of the shops (although I have since seen photos of women near the front holding up placards, but where I was positioned last night I couldn’t see them). There were children holding signs which I did see. There was even a child that came up to one of the ’20 White Australian’s and said to him “Why don’t you just go away!”.

Women to the rear of the rally. Source: MK, Australian Security Journal.

Of the White 20 Australian’s there was a member that was dressed with a headscarf that comprised of an Australian flag and a member that played our national anthem. I have absolutely no objection to this. My initial reaction, I have to admit to the scarf was “oh my, that’s keen!”, but then I remembered why we were there. This is Australia. In Australia we are a democratic country where we fortunate to have freedom of speech, freedom to wear what we wear. If we have to evaluate our wardrobes before we go to any event, we may as well not attend, as we have already succumbed to their wish of being told what to wear and where and when to wear it. I will stand proudly with anyone that choses to wear a bandanna, a T-shirt that promotes Australia or anyone that choses to play the national anthem on their phone (which might I add was only played for a very short time and could hardly be heard because of the volume of the chants, speakers and brain-washing music that was being played).

The ‘highlight’ of the night, (pls read that to mean: the thing that grabbed my attention the most), was that we were asked to remove ourselves from a public rally. A rally that was held on Australian soil, in an Australian city, my city. Not only that, we were advised not to return to that area once we had left. I hold the police in the highest regard and have enormous amounts of respect for their job and the work they do, but found it incomprehensible that the very police that should be protecting my right to voice my opinions, participate in my freedom of speech, alt alone stand in a public street, were the very people removing me and allowing me the opportunity to do this. By removing us from a suburb and public street that should belong to ALL of us, I was witness to the “Islam will rule your streets’ gaining a foothold. And I was disgusted. This is not the Australia I grew up in. To be labelled by both the Police and the media as a person that is part of a ‘right wing extremist group’ is nothing short of being an insult. I am part of NO group. Quite simply, I am a proud patriotic Australian citizen who loves my country and holds dear the values that we have here. But I guess without the label “right-wing extremist group” it’s hardly newsworthy.

I was witness to their right to hold placards (the same placards, that had I been holding would have ‘ insighted public disturbance), their right to have speakers to promote Islam and the sanctity of their prophet. I was witness to my non allowance of the right to speak out against my concerns about Islam and their ‘prophet’. I observed my right to remain on a public street being refused. I was witness to Islamic men giving me death stares and making it well known that they were angry that we were there.

In short, I was was witness to the decay of the Australia I once knew. Tolerance is no longer a word we can use in Australia, as I discovered last night, it no longer applies. Well to be accurate, it no longer applies to me. “Tolerant” applies to me, but “tolerance” does not. I am required now to be tolerant of their views and beliefs, however I am no longer afforded tolerance for my views. “No Go’ areas is a word we as Australians can feel free to use, because last night I discovered that Lakemba is now a “No Go” zone for White Australians, or be more accurate, non Muslims.

For years I have been witness to thousands of people, sitting at home from the comforts of their lounges, whinging and complaining about Islam taking over our country. And I agree with you. But what are we doing about it? Last night I was witness to 20 or so people doing something. Yes, I can almost hear you screaming from behind your computer ‘but what did you actually achieve?”

I achieved factual insight, because I was there. Not just Facebook hearsay. I made my presence known simply by taking photos and video footage. I made the Muslims aware, by my presence, that I am NOT accepting of their Islam. I think that there are lots of ways to be assertive with out being aggressive. I was able to assert my position and my views by maintaining my silence but by being present. I AM able to contradict the media’s portrayal of what occurred because I WAS there. I personally think more could have been achieved with more people there standing by my side, especially if we stood there in silence, but there was more of us. Why? Because our mere presence on what they deem as ‘their soil’ makes them uncomfortable. You can almost physically see them squirm. And I like that. Silence, but greater numbers is far superior. It gives us the upper hand in showing them by the numbers that we aren’t accepting of their views, of their Islam. By being silent again provides us with the upper hand in that the media can’t accuse of insighting violence by being antagonistic. It makes it harder for the media to provide footage of us being aggressive. But most importantly, it makes it impossible for the Islamists to play the victim card! And I like that!

Whilst I reflected on the outcome of the rally for me personally, being escorted away from it before it had even finished, I was horrified and saddened to think that the Australia I once knew is gone forever. But it doesn’t have to be. I won’t sit back and allow it. Whilst I have breath in my body, I will fight time and time again for the Australia I once new and the removal of Islam from our country. I just hope that people will cease just talking the talk and actually walk the walk!

Gallery

Below are some of the photos that I took from the rally before I was assertively removed.

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