Words that sparked St Kilda clash
The irony about the loudspeaker proclamation that far-right Australians should "take back the beach" at St Kilda is that there was nobody on it.
It was overcast and raining and the would-be occupiers were nowhere to be seen.
On top of a hill at one end of the beach, a self-titled 'Patriot' spoke seven simple words to an underwhelming crowd of supporters: "It's time to take back our beach." He later bragged, "look how many of us there are".
Led by convicted criminals Blair Cottrell and Neil Erikson, who stopped to pose for photos with fans, the group of less than 150 marched down St Kilda Beach towards a long line of police separating them from some 300 anti-racism protesters.
There, the two groups shouted at each other from a distance, but it soon turned ugly.
On one side, anti-fascists chanted "unite, unite, unite to fight the right" and "no Nazis, never again".
On the other side, supporters of the United Patriots Front revved one another up with Nazi salutes and stories about how hard it is to enjoy fish and chips on the esplanade these days.
The rally, billed by some as Cronulla Riots 2.0, was organised in response to a number of brutal attacks in the St Kilda area in recent months, including one that saw several African youths beating up on three men.
The clashes were nowhere near as violent as the riots in 2005 but a huge number of police were on hand to ensure that was the case.
Riot police wore face masks and held batons on the sidelines waiting for skirmishes to break out, and they did. A number of protesters had to be controlled with capsicum spray and one was arrested.
Erikson told the media that the "problem is the minorities". He said Africans are "raping and pillaging" and that multiculturalism had failed in Australia.
His supporters were not attacking all minorities, though. A Vietnamese man named "Tom" was celebrated for his ability and willingness to assimilate. Tom stood with his arms in the arm, a cigarette in his mouth, an Akubra on his head and an Australian flag draped around his neck.
Erikson admitted he was disappointed that members of the African community in Melbourne did not turn up to the rally.
"We're here, they're not here," he said. "It shows you the cowardice among that community."
His supporters carried placards that read: "Politicians flooding communities with immigrants does not integrate them into society" and "Tip of the iceberg - Sudanese crime not policed is tenfold".
Among those attending was Australian Senator Fraser Anning, who infamously referenced Hitler's "Final Solution" in his maiden speech and was dumped by Bob Katter's party for his views on race.
In a message released on Wednesday, Cottrell launched an attack on the government and media, which he said were working together like "a Communist state".
"I'll be uniting with Australian workers … on St Kilda Beach and every Australian patriot I know will be there with me," Cottrell said, adding: "Rise without fear."
The United Patriots Front, one of a number of active extreme right-wing groups, joining the likes of True Blue Crew and Reclaim Australia, are volunteer-led and operate on donations from members, who congregate in Facebook groups and on hidden forums.
They attract a broad range of sympathisers, from Australians concerned about immigration, crime and national security, through to more fringe members with neo-Nazi and criminal links.
- with Shannon Molloy