This afternoon, an angry demonstration of 200-300 people in Melbourne forced the cancellation of a police press conference to launch “Operation Fortitude” and then forced the cancellation of the operation itself.

In a media statement released in advance of the planned press conference, an Australian Border Force official said, “Tonight and tomorrow evening (Friday and Saturday) Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, the Sheriff’s Office, Taxi Services Commission and the ABF will join Victoria Police as part of the inter-agency operation”. He also said that, as part of what they called “Operation Fortitude”, Border Force officers would be positioned at various locations around the city and would speak “with any individual we cross paths with”.

News of the planned operation spread like wildfire across the Internet and the phone network. The MACG joined 200-300 other protestors at Flinders St Station at 2:00 p.m. and all were extremely angry at the prospect of Border Force coppers stopping people and asking them to show their papers to prove they were in the country legally. Speakers pointed out that Border Force was either going to be stopping people at random, or was going to be engaged in racial profiling. Neither of these options is acceptable. It was also agreed by the crowd that it would be a good idea for people to intervene if they see Border Force coppers stopping people and checking ID – getting them to justify what they’re doing and informing them of our objections. The MACG thinks that’s an excellent proposal.

As debate raged across the Internet, the protest moved from the steps of Flinders St Station into the middle of the Flinders and Swanston Sts intersection so that it would be impossible for the media to ignore. The disruption successfully spread the news that these Gestapo tactics from Border Force were not only arousing outrage, but would be resisted. When news came that the press conference was going to go ahead inside Flinders St Station, the protest moved into the station itself. When the border cops realised they were the centre of attention, they decided discretion was the better part of valour and retreated to the station’s police office.

At 2:35 we received the news that the press conference was called off. At 2:45 a media report was announced, stating that Operation Fortitude had been cancelled. Victoria Police said “We understand there has been a high level of community interest and concern which has been taken into consideration when making this decision.” Someone in the Victoria Police Media Unit is going to get an award for understatement over that sentence.

The demonstration broke up at 3:00 p.m. in celebration. The MACG warns, however, against complacency. A Twitter storm and a demo of a couple of hundred might be enough to take down a misconceived PR stunt for Border Force, but to defeat the Border Force itself and the racism that it enforces at the Government’s behest, we will need a movement of the whole working class, organised in the workplace. The Fascists of the United Patriots Front certainly need to be taken on and defeated, but it must be recognised that, at this stage of proceedings, they are amateurs at racist violence. The State employs an entire Border Force of professionals who are a lot better at it and who do it for a living.