Penrith protests attract neo-Nazis
Anti-Muslim protests led by the "Protect Penrith" campaign are attracting nasty extremist groups to the area. The newly-formed neo-Nazi organisation, Squadron 88, is trying to exploit the situation and broaden its appeal to the far-right by expanding its anti-Semitic hate to Muslims. Richard Jackson investigates.
A small group of vocal locals called the Protect Penrith Action Group, and far-right political parties with no connection to the Penrith area at all such as the Party for Freedom and Australia First Party, have protested against the construction of an Islamic prayer hall at Kemps Creek.
The issue has become a magnet for political extremists across the spectrum, many who are using the opportunity to push their divisive ideological agendas.
Abbas Raza Alvi, secretary of the Muhammadi Welfare Association that has had its community hall at Kemps Creek approved by council, told The Point Magazine that many attending protests were from "highly racist groups" that had no connection with Penrith whatsoever.
One such group is the newly-formed Squadron 88, whose most high-profile moment had previously been distributing anti-Semitic leaflets in Bondi in August last year. This neo-Nazi group appears to be diversifying its hate agenda into the field of Islamophobia in order to gain some far-right traction.
At a January 23 protest, five members of Squadron 88 appeared in their jackets, black and white camo-trousers and boots. The group’s organiser, Tyler Winchester, handed a megaphone to his mascot and spokesperson, Ross “The Skull” May, who ranted, “We are vehemently opposed to this mosque … this all goes back to Gough Whitlam, when that mongrel got in that is the day Australia died in the form of mass-mongrelisation…”
“… I say close Manus Island and send them all back, if they die out there, they die out there, so bloody what?… Stop foreign aid, bring Australia out of the United Nations, bring home all the ambassadors, Australia must become a closed society.”
As neo-fascists, anarchists and other groups faced off, it soon became apparent that the protests were a playground for extreme politics and had very little to do with applications and approvals for Muslim community centres.
Squadron 88 differentiates itself from other far-right organisations in Australia by its unwavering white supremacist ideology.
“A lot of these groups want to constantly claim that they are not racist, and constantly afraid of being a neo-Nazi, we just don’t care at all so we have nothing to try and defend.” said Tyler Winchester, using a pseudonym, as if he won't even put his own name to his extremist claims.
Winchester met The Skull in April 2014 and formed the group soon after.
Now 69-years-old, The Skull's own involvement with white supremacy began in 1964, when he was one “of the main storm troopers” for the Nationalist Socialist Party of Australia (NSPA). It is an image that defines The Skull - intimidation and violence. He smashed up communist bookstores and served in different prisons across the country. He gained notoriety in Rugby League circles by being an avid St George Dragons fan, routinely espousing his racist mantra and starting brawls inside Kogarah Jubilee Oval, before he was finally banned.
An anarchist blog dedicated to covering far-right politics in Australia, Slackbastard, also acts as a focal point for anti-fascist protests. The website’s author has adopted a pseudonym, ‘Andy Fleming’, for his own protection.
“I think S88 is dangerous,” Fleming said via email.
“Their political credentials are a function of their manly capacity for violence. This is also what attracts them to The Skull, a neo-Nazi with a long record of violence. Like other fascists, violence, in their eyes, has a redemptive quality, and its use is glorified.”
Fleming said Muslims "have become a strategic focus of the far right" and Squadron 88’s opposition to the Penrith prayer hall is a “pathetic” attempt to reach a broader audience, rather than stemming from a "deeper political conviction".
Winchester and The Skull
The Skull, wearing a bomber jacket and Stormfront t-shirt, emblazoned with “White Pride World Wide”, said that the Jew is the "centre of all evil" and rambled on about the conspiracy theory of “the holohoax."
This unrelenting anti-Semitism and holocaust denial is what differentiates Squadron 88 from other far-right political extremist organisations, like Party for Freedom, the Australian Defence League, the Q Society and the Australian Protectionist Party - groups whose focus of hate has been Islam. But Squadron 88 is desperate to appeal to the tiny share of supporters that these groups compete for.
Protests against Muslim development applications have given oxygen to violent extremist attention-seekers like Winchester and The Skull and are attracting nasty outside elements to local communities.
A group behind anti-Muslim protests in Penrith is a neo-Nazi organisation trying to broaden its appeal