31 January 2024

Police crack down on 'pathetic' neo-Nazi group attempts to disrupt Sydney Australia Day weekend

| Andrew McLaughlin
Start the conversation
masked men clad in black walk up stairs at rail station

The black-clad white-supremacist group at Artarmon Train Station on Australia Day. Photo: Sydney Trains.

White-supremacist groups attempting to disrupt Australia Day celebrations in Sydney over the weekend have been thwarted by NSW Police and have been described as “pathetic” by the NSW Premier.

On Friday, a group of about 70 men dressed in black long-sleeved clothing, black hats, and masks or balaclavas were pulled off a train at North Sydney station by members of the North Sydney Police Area Command, the Public Order Riot Squad and Police Transport Command.

Led by the notorious Victorian-based white supremacist and self-appointed leader of the National Socialist Network, Thomas Sewell, the group boarded the train at Artarmon station on Sydney’s North Shore, but police prevented them from travelling into the city. Sewell was allegedly involved in the 2020 brutal assault of two bushwalkers in the Victorian Grampians region during a gathering of his group.

Using special powers, a senior police officer issued the group with a Public Safety Order, telling the men he believed their “presence in the Sydney City local government area poses a serious risk to public safety”.

“This is based on your ideological links, including your associates, your previous attendance and ideologically motivated public order incidents, your criminal history of assaulting members of the public and your goal of intimidating and provoking people,” the group was told.

Police said six members of the group were detained so that their identities could be established before being released. A total of 65 infringement notices were issued for offences such as offensive behaviour but no charges were laid, with police telling media that 24 of those charged had come from Victoria, 16 from Sydney, 11 from regional NSW, six from South Australia, five from Queensland, and four from Tasmania.

On Sunday morning, a smaller group of about 20 black-clad and masked men gathered in Artarmon, but they were again met by police and dispersed, just hours after another attempted gathering in North Turramurra was broken up by police on Saturday evening.

READ ALSO Heaps of Australia Day events, but only those that are inclusive get government support

NSW Premier Chris Minns labelled the group as “absolutely pathetic”.

In a social media post on Saturday, the Premier said he didn’t want to give the group a platform.

“But I do want to make this absolutely clear to the white-supremacist thugs who attempted to gather in Sydney’s CBD yesterday. You are not welcome here. You have no place in NSW.

“Hate speech and white supremacy has no place in NSW and it will not be tolerated.”

In a television interview with 9News on Sunday morning, he said: “Most of the time, they cover their faces with balaclavas as many of them are from interstate.

“I think most people, the vast majority of people who live in NSW, think that they’re absolutely pathetic. It’s pretty embarrassing to dress up in all black on a 40-degree day when everyone else is having fun and enjoying this great Australian day.”

READ ALSO ‘No place for hate’: South Australia joins ban against Nazi symbols and salute

But Premier Minns said that, despite his attempts to humiliate the group, it needed to be taken seriously.

“We do, because the ideology that they’re sprouting is so serious, it’s toxic to our culture, it’s designed to rip apart the cohesive community we have in NSW, in fact in all of Australia,” he said.

“I just think we need to confront it head-on and say to some of these young people who are considering joining, ‘You look ridiculous’. It’s absolutely pathetic, and what you’re spewing on the streets of Sydney and Australia is hate-filled antisemitism and racism that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.”

One of the powers NSW police have is to force these protesters to remove their masks and balaclavas and identify themselves.

“In NSW the police have the right … to expose you and your identity so that everyone you know, your family, your friends, your employers, your co-workers, will know that you’re a racist,” Mr Minns said.

The Sydney gatherings come just weeks after new laws came into force nationally banning the use of the Nazi salute or symbols in public, with the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 through Parliament.

In an 8 January statement, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the new laws sent a clear message.

“There is no place in Australia for acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist acts,” he said.

“This is the first legislation of its kind and will ensure no-one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology.”

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.