‘Freedom’ activists aim to harness anger against new political party
Mr. Rozman, party chairman, said Saturday age discussions on electoral strategy – including with like-minded parties – were ongoing, but any announcement would be premature.
Experts say these ambitions can be fanciful. Bringing together those frustrated by Australia’s willingness to lock in to restrict the spread of COVID-19 is one thing; Harnessing those disparate groups that make up the “freedom” protest crowd into a united and organized political force is a greater challenge.
Those attending the protests include a loose coalition of far-right, conspiracy and libertarian groups. These groups have relied on the Telegram encrypted messaging app and other social media platforms to communicate, motivate and engage. Reignite Democracy has 14,000 subscribers on its Telegram account.
While some posts around the protest events can be extreme, the posts between many supporters show them expressing frustration about their day-to-day lives – unemployment, family stress, and worries about their children.
These concerns are punctuated by militarist calls to action from far corners, with some participants urging each other to be part of a “massive mobilization of citizens.” Some key figures in the movement (none of those named in this article) made comparisons with the Anzacs this week.
“The ANZAC were in the trenches, fighting for freedom,” said a member of the group. “We are canceling the culture that is fighting for the same. We are not made for the trenches but I doubt the ANZAC will want to live in this time either.
Another said: “I am ready to go to jail, I am ready to go to war and I am ready to fight to the death and protect my god’s gift of birthrights. “
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who fears more trouble on the streets of Sydney on Saturday, confirmed on Friday that his force’s counterterrorism command and national security agencies were working with the Five Eyes international intelligence network to investigate the involvement of foreign extremist groups in the organization of the demonstrations last weekend. .
There is no indication that Reignite Democracy Australia or any of those named are linked to foreign extremists or are part of the investigation Mr Fuller spoke about on Friday.
Australia’s best-known micro-party strategist Glenn Druery said Age Reignite Democracy would struggle to distill the divergent views of those protesting the blockages into a cohesive political movement.
“You have anti-vaxxer weirdos, you have extreme anarchists, religious types and other moderates all coming from different angles,” Druery said, adding that he would not work as a consultant for the new party. because he could not approve of many of his philosophies.
He said it would be highly unlikely that a candidate for Reignite Democracy Australia could win a Senate post. However, he said the party could have influence through the distribution of preferences if it targets a handful of fringe coalition seats in Melbourne and west Sydney, places where people are tired of lockdowns.
“The vaccine rollout has been a complete mess and is the most obvious target that we continue to get back on lockdown. So you hammer home this failure day after day, ”he said. “But again, a lot of those who might support Reignite are also anti-vaxxers. They don’t want to be vaccinated. This is one of the difficulties in uniting them.
Regarding vaccination, the party says it is pro-choice. Among his online products for sale is a “you can say no” sticker featuring a needle and a mask. He also sells “RDA Freedom Fighter” and “Immune building not distancing” t-shirts.
Dr Timothy Graham, a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology who studies the role of social media in the protests, said the ideologies of those involved varied and the movement had attracted groups of people who would traditionally be opposed on many issues.
“Some of the other key camps that are sort of new players are wellness groups, a kind of demographics that doesn’t necessarily match up with what we know about QAnon and the far-right groups,” he said. Dr Graham, adding that a smaller group in the protests was made up of individuals eager to express their frustration and who believed that doing something was better than nothing.
Despite their different perspectives and priorities, protest groups found common ground on issues of choice and freedom, Dr Graham said. He said the use of social media within the “freedom” movement had become increasingly sophisticated over the past 18 months and reflected a “much stronger and more organized mobilization”.
David Limbrick, the Liberal Democrat member of the Victorian Parliament arrested during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne in November, is also skeptical that Reignite Democracy or one of its associated groups could elect candidates.
But the Libertarian MP says the movement is set to make its presence felt in electoral politics in other ways, citing recent “defections” to his own party by disgruntled New South Wales liberals and the Queensland National Liberal Party.
His party is another group that sees itself a role in the looming debate over mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports.
“We were sliding into an unthinkable situation a few years ago, that we were going to start restricting people’s freedoms just because they are human,” Limbrick said.
“It’s a terrible state of affairs; the authoritarian drift is out of control.
Independent researcher Cam Smith, who has studied the protest phenomenon closely from its first appearance in early until mid-2020, also believes the movement is ready for the next stage in its evolution, fueled by the question of vaccination.
Mr Smith said an arsenal of disinformation resources and techniques, honed over decades by activists opposed to childhood vaccinations, were ready to be redeployed against COVID vaccines.
“There’s this anti-vaccine device that’s been working, sort of unchallenged, on social media for quite a long time,” he said. “I think it’s going to gain momentum. “
Ms. Smit certainly seems to believe that her struggle is entering a new phase.
“We’re really lucky, we’ve got God on our side and you know what?” God always wins in the end, ”the activist recently told her supporters. “As the games begin.”
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