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HomeEditors PickFact Check: Herald Sun article claims that Shrine protestors were rioting, violent,...

Fact Check: Herald Sun article claims that Shrine protestors were rioting, violent, vandalistic and destructive.


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1. Shrine Protestors were violent.
2. Shrine Protestors were vandalistic.
3. Shrine Protestors were destructive.
4. Tony Abbott defending the crowd is both ignorant and dangerous.
5. Riot police were facing a riot.
A article appeared in the Herald Sun on the 2nd October 2021 titled “Defending the Shrine mob means Abbott has to go” written by Justin Smith.

The article made out the argument that Tony Abbott’s support of the Shrine protestors, which the article referred to as “Yobs” was both ignorant and dangerous.
“And for Tony Abbot to defend them is both ignorant and dangerous” (Justin Smith, Herald Sun)
This statement is factually incorrect. Tony Abbott spoke on the Australian Heartland podcast hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs where he discussed the concerns of the protestors. Mr Abbott had this to say “Now look, I’m not an anti-vaxxer, although I think that people generally speaking have a right not to be vaccinated if that’s their choice.”

“Obviously people shouldn’t break the law, but you’ve got people there at the Shrine of Remembrance with flags, with
placards, to the best of my observation they were simply there to make a point.”

“They weren’t being violent, they weren’t being vandalistic, they weren’t being destructive.”

“I saw a lot of people who maybe were a little misguided, maybe were a little over the top, but I saw a lot of people there who are sick and tired of restrictions, which, frankly, are now becoming absolutely unreasonable.”

“Then you had the Victorian Police lined up like storm troopers, eventually charging them with rubber bullets and tear gas.”

The conversation from Tony Abbott showed beyond reasonable doubt that he was not ignorant and understood their situation, addressing the concerns about the type of people in the crowd as reported by mainstream media, but then reminding the listeners that the overwhelming majority of protestors were peaceful and they were standing up for their rights. In no way was Tony Abbott ignorant, he stated the facts and he knew the reasons for the protest. He had the required knowledge to speak on the subject and addressed all concerns.

The claim by Justine Smith of the Herald Sun that his comments are dangerous, are outrageous because this implies that the protestors are dangerous and that Tony Abbott’s comments could spark a violent response from protestors.

The fact is however that the protestors are not violent with the exception of one or two bad eggs, but they are really in the minority. We at AFIPN have looked at hours upon hours of live footage of the protest and could find no evidence to back up violence from the protestors. We have also watched hours of live footage from other protests and also found no evidence of violence from protestors, in fact the only violence comes from the Victorian Police.
Watch coverage for the Shrine protest and the extreme response from Victorian Police at The Real Rukshan.

It is clear that there is no previous demonstration of majority violence from the protestors either at the Shrine protest or at protests before and after the shrine event, therefore the comment from Justin Smith that Tony Abbott’s comments are dangerous is proven to be incorrect.

In the Herald Sun article, writer Justin Smith claimed that Tony Abbott was wrong in his assumption that the protesters were neither violent, vandalistic or destructive. Justin Smith went on to state that the protestors liked the idea of rioting and assaulting cops.
“He described the Shrine crowd as being “simply there to make a point”. He said: “They weren’t being violent, they weren’t being vandalistic, they weren’t being destructive.”

Wrong, wrong and wrong, Tony. They were being all those things. And any “point” they were trying to make got lost when they climbed on the sacred building to use it for play equipment.

In essence, these people are angry because God made them stupid and they like the idea of rioting and assaulting cops. So this was their big chance.”
(Justin Smith, Herald Sun)
Everything that Justin Smith said in this part of the article was factually incorrect. Justin claims that Tony was wrong when he said they were not violent, vandalistic or destructive. This is not true, what Tony Abbott said was correct. There was no violence from the crowd, unless you count swearing at cops as violence which I don’t,
it’s just free speech, a bit crude but not violent. No one rushed the cops, no one assaulted the cops and no one threw anything at the cops. There is no evidence of this on any video footage including the hugely edited video from mainstream media. If these events had of happened then many of the live streamers would have captured the moment on camera, but if you watched the event live you saw that the protestors were peaceful. So now that the claim that they were violent is proven to be false, lets move on to vandalistic and destructive behavior.

If it was true that the protestors vandalised the Shrine then we would have seen video and photo’s of the damage all over mainstream media and the news. We at AFIPN acknowledge that there was photo’s and video of some rubbish left behind but if you watch the live stream you will see that the crowd had people walking around with bags collecting rubbish, not at all what you would expect from a crowd that was vandalistic and destructive, instead it shows the protestors had an enormous amount of respect for the site. But once the Victorian Police moved in with rubber bullets and tear gas you really can’t expect the protestors to pick up a bottle of water they had sitting next to them, at that moment the crowd were running away for their own safety. So the claim that the crowd was vandalistic or destructive is also false along with the claim they were riotous. Riotous behavior is when a group of people become violent for a cause, now if anyone should have that claim placed on them it should be labeled against the Victorian Police.

Perrie, Stewart “Tony Abbott Defends Melbourne Protestors” The Lad Bible,
Accessed 3rd October 2021.

Gilmour, Joel, “Facebook Live Video – Freedom Protest Melbourne (22.09.21)”, Facebook
Accessed 3rd October 2021.

Fernando, Rukshan, “The Real Rukshan – The Shrine of Remembrance (22.09.21)” Facebook,
Accessed 3rd October 2021.

Smith, Justin “Defending the Shrine Mob Means, Abbott has to go” The Herald Sun,
Accessed 3rd October 2021.


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