When an Irish bartender at a Melbourne pub spat in the beer of one of Victoria’s most well-known neo-Nazis, he likely didn’t realise how significant the fallout would be.
The young man from the Irish Times Pub on Little Collins Street was standing up for what he believes in when he took offence at the Sonnenrad — or “sun wheel” — on the shoulder of Jimeone Roberts and took action against the white nationalist’s beverage.
The action cost him his job and allegedly cost his manager $651 when there were threats made (and followed through on by others) about negative reviews for the venue on Google.
Including the number 51 in the demand is sinister because it represents the number of people killed in the Christchurch massacre — a massacre carried out by a neo-Nazi who is idolised by the ultra-nationalist community in Melbourne.
The scenes at the bar have ignited much debate but they have also thrust back into the spotlight a frightening movement that had been bubbling away in Victoria pre-pandemic and exploded in 2020 and 2021.
It is the reason Roberts, 29, felt so emboldened to show off the offensive artwork despite his home state becoming the first jurisdiction in Australia to ban Nazi hate symbols.
That boldness is not new. If you’ve been watching closely, is it part of the plan.
Video shared among white nationalists
At the pub on August 2 were Roberts, who had one day earlier been convicted of public nuisance for plastering swastikas around Melbourne, and two other well-known neo-Nazis — Neil Erikson, who founded the United Patriots Front, and Stefanos Eracleous, a former Young Liberal.
But a Facebook post from management at the pub apologising to the trio also offered an apology to a fourth man, Thomas Sewell, despite him not being in attendance.
That is significant because Sewell has the highest profile of any neo-Nazi in Australia and is the founder of the Lads Society and the leader of the National Socialist Network which vows to bring about a “white revolution”.
“The Irish Times management would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Jimeone Roberts and his friends — Stefanos, Neil Erikson, Thomas Sewell, and Ricky T for the incident that took place on 2nd August 2022,” managers wrote.
Capturing the footage of the confrontation allowed the group to share it among like-minded individuals of which there are many operating on encrypted social media channels like Telegram.
The pub fiasco, like countless other public displays of self-righteousness, is fuel for a movement constantly looking to recruit people loyal to the cause.
The same thing happened with an extreme right-wing rally in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda in 2019 that received national media attention and again when the NSN hosted a cross-burning getaway in the Grampians region of western Victoria in 2021.
On that occasion, up to 40 members of the far-right group camped close to and visited the small tourist town of Halls Gap, about 150km west of Ballarat.
They chanted “Heil Hitler,” and “white power” to the absolute shock of locals.
“I never thought living out here I’d be in danger of extremist groups,” one local business owner told news.com.au at the time.
But these are different times. The incident at the pub is further proof of that.
Extremism thrust into public view at St Kilda
Self-described patriots giving the Nazi salute next to one of Melbourne’s most popular beaches.
Others mimicking a soldier’s march and brandishing Nazi SS helmets.
Those are the scenes that confronted members of the public in January three years ago when hundreds of members of the white nationalist movement gathered behind Erikson and United Patriots Front founder Blair Cottrell.
To give you some sense of Cottrell’s intentions, the bodybuilder once called for a picture of Adolf Hitler to be hung in every Australian classroom.
Facebook events set up to promote the gathering described it as “Romper Stomper 2.0”, a reference to the Australian film about neo-Nazis.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, told news.com he was “deeply outraged” by what he saw.
“Most would have watched in horror and would have been deeply outraged to see marchers openly throw Nazi salutes and proudly display SS signs,” he said.
“It reminds us that anti-Semitism and bigotry are very much alive in Australia, and that extremists are trying to insert their dangerous ideology into our streets.
“Melbourne has one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the world, and they would be appalled and shocked to see such full-throated bigotry — a throwback to history’s darkest chapter — paraded in the streets of Melbourne.”
Fallout from pub spat continues
The alleged demand for money from management specified a sum of $651.
In a statement, Victoria Police said the Irish pub confrontation is being investigated and that they believe a “number of men became involved in an altercation with a staff member and have subsequently made a number of demands from the business”.
Management say they just want to move on.
“Following the incident, the Irish Times management took immediate disciplinary action by terminating the two employees involved in the event, which violated our workplace code of conduct,” they wrote on Facebook.
“The Irish Times management team strongly disapproves of the ex-employee’s unprofessional conduct by spitting into the patron’s drink as a consequence of a discussion with the patron over a political topic.
“As part of our commitment to provide the highest level of service to our patrons, we will continue to reinforce that all staff must remain respectful towards our patrons at all times to avoid any such future recurrence.”
In a subsequent statement posted on Wednesday, the pub said it had “followed the legal advice in taking disciplinary action” and stressed it did “not want to be in the centre of any political views or topics”.
“We would appreciate your understanding and support on this matter,” it asked its followers.
News.com.au has contacted The Irish Times for further comment.