While frequenting a Melbourne pub on Wednesday 8 November, Australian Labor Party Senator Sam Dastyari was subjected to a racist attack by a number of men claiming to be from the right-wing, nationalist group ‘Patriot Blue’. The attack was filmed by Nick Erikson, a member of ‘Patriot Blue’, who was convicted in 2014 of stalking a rabbi, and is currently appealing a 2017 conviction for inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims. Erikson uploaded this latest video of he and fellow ‘Patriot Blue’ members accosting Dastyari to the group’s Facebook page.
In the video, one man, while standing next to Dastyari, says, ‘You terrorist. You little monkey.’ He then asks Dastyari, ‘Why don’t you go back to Iran, you terrorist?’ In response, Dastyari refers to the men as ‘rednecks’ and ‘racists’, to which the men ask rhetoerically, ‘What race is Islam?’ Coming to Dastiyari’s aid, the local member for Footscray, the suburb in which the attack took place, Tim Watts MP, asks the men, ‘What race is dickhead?’
Responses to the attack on Dastyari have varied. Dastyari himself, interviewed a day after the incident on commercial television, deplored the nationalistic direction of Australian politics and pointed out that this particular attack was by no means an anomaly. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull denounced the attack, saying there should be ‘zero tolerance for racist abuse such as this’, while opposition leader Bill Shorten similarly decried the fact that Dastyari could not simply go out for a meal without being subjected to abuse by ‘racist idiots’.
Leader of Australia’s One Nation party, Pauline Hanson, on the other hand, argued that Dastyari was exploiting the incident for the sale of his upcoming book. Hanson, who Dastyari partially blames for giving oxygen to this brand of nationalistic politics and rhetoric, reasoned that she too had been the subject of public ridicule and verbal attacks and that she had never been afforded the respect Dastyari was seeking. Hanson also pointed to Dastyari allowing a Chinese-linked company to cover a $1,600 travel debt he owed to the Commonwealth as reason for the public having an apparent lack of respect for the senator.
In a tweet following the incident, Dastyari wrote:
Tonight will always be the night that we got harassed by cowardly white nationalists & @TimWattsMP yelled “what race is dickead” #strayamate.