Controversial campaigner tells police to shove $68K bill
THE company behind right-wing Canadian commentator Lauren Southern's Australian tour has refused to pay a $68,000 security bill, accusing Victoria Police of "enabling the thugs' veto".
Axiomatic Events was sent an invoice for police services after violent left-wing protesters targeted the Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux Live event in Melbourne on July 20, closing roads and assaulting officers.
A similar bill was sent to Penthouse magazine after violent scenes outside a Milo Yiannopoulos event in December last year. That bill has also not been paid.
In a statement on Monday, Axiomatic Events director Dave Pellowe said he was concerned paying the "crippling" bill would create a dangerous precedent. "The Andrews Government has the gall to call this 'user pays' policing, but the reality is that it's victim-blaming," Mr Pellowe said.
"Our event was a normal-sized crowd in a venue that routinely hosts such crowds. We broke no laws and went above and beyond to co-operate with police, and greatly appreciate the work they do.
"But if Police Minister Lisa Neville is looking for creative ways to fundraise for Victoria Police she can keep looking.
"The fair and just way to go about it would be to issue a $1000 fine to every thug who blocked the highway, who abused and intimidated the mums, dads and kids who came along, who damaged private property and turned Melbourne into a Berkeley war zone.
"Sending us the bill for their lawlessness appears to be simply enabling the thugs' veto."
Axiomatic Events said members of Antifa-associated groups "spat, screamed and uttered abuse at the men and women boarding and alighting from the buses" and that "a number of male members of the … groups displayed their genitals to people boarding and alighting the buses".
In a letter to Victoria Police on Monday, Axiomatic Events' solicitor said any attempt to recover the fee "will be vigorously resisted".
"The imposition of fees for the performance of essential police purposes is unlawful," the letter said. "The role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society."
Victoria Police had previously argued it was acceptable to charge organisers of a commercial event for security, but the letter argues it is "the ordinary discharge of a core police responsibility".
"That such events have commercial aspect in no way deprives citizens attending them of an entitlement to have recourse to police protection if they are threatened," it said.
"The victims of politically motivated violence and intimidatory conduct at public events are no less entitled to proper police protection merely because they purchased a ticket to participate in an event."
It said "extremist groups" such as Antifa "follow the same the strategy each time political conservatives gather to listen to speeches by other conservatives".
According to the letter, that three-part strategy is first "to announce an intention to organise violent street opposition to the holding of a particular public event and enlist support for that opposition from the media".
Two, "to elicit a fear on the part of those arranging the public event that the safety of participants and attendees may be at risk and cannot be guaranteed without police protection".
Three, "to rely upon the police to impose massive financial penalties upon those arranging such events so that those events that have been scheduled are cancelled and those that are in planning are abandoned".
"If Victoria Police is obliged to be complicit in this strategy that is a matter of serious concern," it said. "It is subversive of public confidence in the rule of law."
Mr Pellowe said he was aware of other political groups changing their plans to specifically avoid a "$68,000 police bill".
"The effect this has on important public debates is devastating," he said.
"We cannot let this stand. I implore Premier Daniel Andrews and Police Minister Lisa Neville to commit to upholding the peace at future political events without blaming the victims and to reconsider the comfort they're inadvertently lending to the thugs' veto."
It comes after fellow Canadian right-wing commentator Gavin McInnes predicted similar protests when he tours Australia in November, warning "people will show up and if they want to fight, I'm happy to fight".
Victoria Police and Ms Neville have been contacted for comment.