|Predecessor||Australian Defence League|
|Split from Reclaim Australia|
|Part of a series on|
|Far-right politics |
|Part of the Politics and elections and Politics series on|
|Part of a series on|
The United Patriots Front (UPF) was a far-right extremist group whose membership was composed of neo-Nazis and fundamentalist Christians. Based in the state of Victoria, UPF was a nationalist anti-Islam organisation that stood in opposition to immigration, opposition to multiculturalism and Islam by demonstrations. It was a splinter group from the anti-Islamic Reclaim Australia group, formed after a dispute between Shermon Burgess and Reclaim Australia organisers. The group has been described by a number of media outlets and journalists as a hate group, and has claimed solidarity with Golden Dawn. The group says it was disbanded in 2017, though no indication of the fact is available, and reports still refer to Cottrell as the leader of UPF. Former Members of the UPF went on to form a new White nationalist group, the Lads Society in late 2017.
UPF leader Blair Cottrell is a convicted criminal and has been described by numerous media outlets and Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, as a neo-Nazi. Besides other run-ins with the law, in September 2017, UPF leaders Cottrell, Neil Erikson, and Christopher Shortis, were found guilty by a magistrate of inciting contempt against Muslims, and each was fined $2,000.
Erikson has admitted to being a neo-Nazi and was convicted of stalking a Rabbi. Cottrell has called for a portrait of Adolf Hitler to be hung in all Australian classrooms and for copies of Mein Kampf to be "issued annually" to students. In 2015 the two leaders were documented surreptitiously discussing Jewish conspiracy theories and "the Jewish problem" with Erikson stating that "My personal opinion is stick to the Muslim shit and Cultural Marxism for max support do Jews later you don't need to show your full hand," Cottrell replied, saying that it was his "current attitude as well. It will take years to prepare for the Jewish problem. If any of us came out with it now we would be slaughtered by public opinion."
Shermon Burgess, who refers to himself as the "Great Aussie Patriot", with Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell, formed the United Patriots Front in May 2015, after a dispute with Reclaim Australia organiser Monika Evers, a Bendigo-based businesswoman. A spokesman for Reclaim Australia said that Burgess's links to the extreme-right Australian Defence League was giving a wrong image of Reclaim Australia. Burgess is a former council worker from New South Wales, a member of Australian Defence League, one of Reclaim Australia’s chief spokesmen and a member of the Australian neo-Nazi metal band Eureka Brigade. Burgess has been described as a neo-Nazi.
Burgess is no longer actively involved with the group, quitting the group in October 2015 after being mocked by other UPF members online, naming the then Victorian leader Blair Cottrell as the new leader.
In October 2015, Blair Cottrell replaced Burgess as chairman of the United Patriots Front. Cottrell has stirred controversy over his criminal convictions (which include arson, stalking, making threats to kill (Offences against the Person Act 1861), violating the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 by inciting contempt against Muslims and breaching intervention orders), and for several of his public statements, including a desire to see a portrait of Adolf Hitler hung in Australian classrooms and for copies of Mein Kampf to be "issued annually" to students. Cottrell has denied supporting Nazism. He announced the formation of a political party, Fortitude, which folded after failing to muster enough members to register. Cottrell was the leader of the UPF until the group split in 2017.
Erikson was one of the founders of UPF, and came to national prominence for attacking former Labor senator Sam Dastyari in a Melbourne bar, launching a verbal attack in which he called Iranian-born Dastyari, a "terrorist" and a "little monkey" and telling him to "go back home".
Erikson is a neo-Nazi and convicted criminal whose convictions include assault, inciting contempt against Muslims, stalking, affray and riotous behaviour. Along with Cottrell and Shortis, he is associated with the secretive far-right fight club, Lads Society.
In 2014, Erikson was convicted of stalking after calling Rabbi Dovid Gutnick and threatening him to "Give me the money Jew or else I will get you".
Chris Shortis, one of the founding members and often referred to in the media as one of the group's leaders, served as the group’s Melbourne lieutenant. A convicted criminal, Shortis refers to himself as a "biblical crusader", with his online comments being described by one Sydney Morning Herald journalist as "similar to those of far-right Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik". He is a conspiracy theorist and firearms enthusiast. Shortis is also a member of the Australia First Party, led by neo-Nazi Jim Saleam.
In September 2017, Cottrell, Erikson (by then a member of the Party for Freedom) and Shortis, were found guilty by a magistrate of inciting contempt against Muslims after they had enacted and made a video of a fake beheading, in order to protest against the building of a mosque in Bendigo. Each was fined $2,000.
The United Patriots Front was formed in May 2015 by Shermon Burgess, a neo-Nazi, with Neil Erikson and Blair Cottrell, after a dispute with anti-Islam Reclaim Australia organiser Monika Evers. A number of small far-right nationalist groups, such as the True Blue Crew, also formed at that time.
|Part of a series on|
Beginning in 2014, members of what would become the UPF were involved in the Voices of Bendigo and Stop the Mosques Bendigo protests. The group was one of a number of far-right groups, including the Q Society, Reclaim Australia, the Australian Defence League and the True Blue Crew, that opposed the construction of a $3 million mosque and Islamic community centre in Bendigo, Victoria.
In May, UPF members clashed with anti-racism protesters on the steps of Richmond Town Hall in Melbourne, when about 70 UPF members were met with a counter-protest of around 300 protesters from the group Campaign Against Racism and Fascism. Anti-racist protesters chanted "Muslims are welcome, racists are not" and one man from the UPF was charged with weapons offences. The UPF was protesting against an anti-racism forum organised by local councillor Stephen Jolly of the Socialist Party. Protesters from Campaign Against Racism and Fascism called the members of UPF Nazis.
On 23 July, Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton confirmed a firearm was seized in Sydney from a man who was travelling to the rally on 18 July.
In August, Fairfax Media reported that Erikson was under investigation for alleged conversations with an unknown person threatening councillor Stephen Jolly.
In September, the group announced that they would contest the Senate at the upcoming 2016 federal election. The group also distributed pamphlets to municipal, state, and federal government figures that attacked the Bendigo mayor. The pamphlet was interpreted as a threat by one official.
In October, Blair Cottrell replaced Burgess as chairman of the United Patriots Front.
In October, the group beheaded a dummy outside the Bendigo City Council chambers to protest the 2015 Parramatta shooting and approval to construct a mosque in Bendigo. A leader of the local anti-mosque group disassociated from the UPF. They later held a demonstration in Rosalind Park which attracted around 1,000 supporters in conjunction with the World Wide Rally for Humanity, which was a global anti-Islam rally. A Victorian police officer said that most protesters who came to protest in Bendigo travelled from other Australian states. On the eve of the proposed 10 October rally in Bendigo, the group was criticised by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who said they "wouldn't be able to spell Bendigo".
In November, the group stated its intention to start a political party called Fortitude. However, it failed to sign up the 500 members needed for registration.
Author John Safran said that members of the 19CC Motorcycle Club had been associating with the UPF. The club's patch featured a red crucifix with the words "No FGM". The 'CC' in the club's name reportedly stood for Citizen Crusaders. An administrator of the group's Facebook page was featured in a video with Australia First Party chairman Jim Saleam. Cottrell told Neil Mitchell his organisation would "only be violent if they needed to defend themselves".
In February, Cottrell was mocked after being photographed purchasing a meal from a halal-certified fast-food restaurant, despite his vocal opposition to halal certification and support for boycotts of certified businesses and products.
In April, United Patriots Front was lambasted in the Australian media following the unfurling of a banner with the words "Stop the Mosques" at an Australian Football League match between Collingwood Football Club and Richmond Football Club at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 1 April. The media and officials of the sport condemned the UPF supporters, for action described as being "offensive", "disgusting" and "racist" for their involvement with the banner. On 10 April, the banner was displayed at another Australian Football League game in Perth. The UPF members were removed from the grounds and the banner confiscated.
In September, Cottrell, Erikson and Shortis were found guilty by a magistrate of inciting contempt, revulsion or ridicule of Muslims, and each was fined $2,000.
In May, it was reported that the Facebook pages for Cottrell and the UPF pages were removed by Facebook. At their peak, they had 120,000 likes.
In January, the UPF attempted to arrange vigilante patrols to help maintain law and order in some Melbourne suburbs, in a stated response to "Gangs of Africans". This was reported by Channel 7 news, to accusations that they were giving neo-Nazis a speech platform.
In August, News Corp news outlet Sky News Australia was heavily criticised for providing a platform to Cottrell in a one-on-one discussion about immigration. Sky News reporter Laura Jayes took offence at his appearance on the program due to the fact that he has expressed admiration for Hitler and claimed to have manipulated women “using violence and terror”. She described Cottrell as a “fascist” and an “arsehole”. The political editor of Sky News, David Speers, was also critical of Cottrell's appearance on the show, stating: "I have just arrived back in the country tonight to be met with the understandable outrage over this... As News Director Greg Byrnes says, it was wrong to have this guy on Sky News." Sky News commentator and former Labor Party minister Craig Emerson resigned in protest after the interview was broadcast, stating that "My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interned in a German POW camp,” and that the decision to give Cottrell a platform on Sky News was “another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country” During the fallout and criticisms over the interview Cottrell tweeted about raping reporter Laura Jays, saying via Twitter that "I might as well have raped @ljayes (Sky News political reporter Laura Jayes) on the air, not only would she have been happier with that but the reaction would’ve been the same." Jayes responded stating that Cottrell is "not just a fascist. He’s down right dangerous". Activist groups called on advertisers to pull advertising campaigns off Sky News in the wake of the channel’s interview with Cottrell.
5 January: UPF leaders, Erikson and Cottrell, promised to unleash a Cronulla-style race riot on Melbourne. On 5 January, around 100 far-right protesters turned up at St Kilda beach to stage a rally and were confronted by about 200 anti-racist protesters and a strong police presence. Queensland Senator Fraser Anning spoke at the rally.
16 March: (Further information: Fraser Anning egg incident) Several UPF members were captured on video assaulting a 17-year-old boy, after the boy crushed an egg on the back of Senator Anning's head while he was speaking at a political meeting in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin. The teenager reportedly egged Anning in response to comments made by the senator about the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, claiming that Muslim immigration had led to the attacks. Anning threw two punches at the boy. Erikson and a number of other UPF members tackled the boy to the ground, putting him in a headlock and repeatedly kicking and punching him. The teenager was arrested and later released pending further inquiries. Victoria Police said the incident would be being investigated "in its entirety", including Anning's actions.
20 March: With a lower tolerance on other social media for hate speech following the mosque attack, Cottrell and Erikson have urged their supporters to follow them on Gab after being banned from Twitter and Facebook.
23 March: In the wake of the Christchurch mosque attack, it emerged that the alleged perpetrator, Brenton Tarrant, had three years earlier given fulsome praise to Cottrell as a leader of the far-right movements. He made more than 30 comments on the now deleted UPF and TBC Facebook pages, singling out Cottrell for praise and disparaging Erikson and Burgess as "useful idiots".
Scott Moerland, a senior figure in the United Patriots Front, contested the 2019 Federal Election running as a candidate for Fraser Anning's Conservative National Party. Anning's had previously stated that he would not endorse anyone associated with UPF.
Koslowski, Max (11 January 2019). "How Australia's far-right were divided and conquered - by themselves". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019.