Neo-Nazi Neil Erikson jailed for attack on queer-friendly church

A couple of days ago, Melbourne neo-Nazi Neil Erikson, former media coordinator of the fascist outfit United Patriots Front and founder of at least fifteen spin-off organisations, was jailed for ten weeks by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court for his part in a horrific invasion of the queer-friendly Melbourne Metropolitan Community Church. He carried out the vile trespass in a livestream with fellow provocateur Claudia Benitez (better known by her alias Dia Beltran) in May 2019. Erikson and Beltran entered the church, where Erikson started accusing those inside, predominantly queer people, of being heathens and shouting homophobic slurs.

This post looks back at some of his previous hate crimes against both Christian churches with whom he disagrees and Muslims in public.

Update: Erikson’s appeal against his conviction was dismissed and, on 1 September 2022, he was sentenced to forty days imprisonment. (Erikson v Pollock [2022] VCC 2142)

A background on “Idiot Boy Nool”

Erikson outside the MMCC seconds before he barges in to abuse those praying inside. Benitez is behind the camera.

Erikson first popped up on the radars of antifascist researchers when he was convicted of making threatening antisemitic phone calls to a rabbi from Melbourne’s largest synagogue. Shortly after the Reclaim Australia protests began in 2015, Andy Fleming identified him as an attendee of Nazi skinhead music gigs. As addressed in the lede, Erikson was also responsible for the fascist UPF’s media output during their protests against the Bendigo Mosque. In this role, he produced a rather infamous video in 2015 of himself and UPF leaders Blair Cottrell and Christopher Shortis graphically beheading a dummy outside the Bendigo Council Chambers. The trio were convicted in 2018 of inciting serious contempt towards Muslims, on account of the video, under section 25 of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

An appeal lodged by Cottrell — the submissions for which were accidentally leaked into the comment section of libertarian blog LibertyWorks by his lawyer — was unsuccessful before the High Court, who knocked it back down to the County Court where it was dismissed.

In the years that followed, Erikson would gain notoriety as a serial pest, frequently showing up where he is not welcome for the sole purpose of harassing those inside. For example, in 2017, Cooks’ Convicts (Erikson’s splinter group from the UPF) barged into meetings of the Yarra and Moreland Councils, in the latter case carrying a large coffin, to protest the councils’ decision to not celebrate Australia Day due to its association with indigenous genocide. His invasions of council meetings continue to today with an invasion of a Kingston Council meeting in April this year after the Herald Sun opened another front in the culture war over a controversial presentation given by a council employee at a school.

The Gosford Jesus incident

The Gosford Anglican Church’s famous marquee, as seen on the day after Cook’s Convicts’ raid.

The MCCC church raid was not the first instance of Erikson harassing parishioners of churches with theological positions that differ from his own. In 2018, Erikson and three members of his clique – then going by the (historically inaccurate) name Cooks’ Convicts – barged into the Gosford Anglican Church. This is the church led by Father Rod Bower which has become famous since 2014 for its marquee signs. Erikson was dressed as Jesus Christ with one of his gang, Danny Peanna, dressed as a Roman guard. Erikson shouted at terrified elderly parishioners claiming that they were heathens for Bower’s support for same-sex marriage, refugee resettlement, and other things deemed to be “SJW politics”.

The Party for Freedom, another fascist-adjacent organisation with which Peanna was also involved, had conducted a similar stunt in 2016 where they barged into the church’s Sunday service, in stereotypical Islamic attire, and announced that it would become Gosford’s mosque. The Daily Mail reported that Erikson also involved in that raid, though admittedly it is unclear from the footage of whether he was actually present. (FWIW, Slackbastard‘s report of the incident suggests he wasn’t present).

Father Bower described the Jesus incident as “violent”, when compared to the relatively peaceful 2016 infiltration, and an act of terrorism, citing Erikson’s wielding of a whip and Peanna’s toy sword which parishioners did not initially notice was plastic.

A warrant for Erikson’s arrest related to the 2018 incident is still pending in New South Wales. Should Erikson ever return he faces arrest and a maximum sentence of two years jail for obstructing a member of the clergy under section 56 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900.

Fr Bower’s reaction to Erikson’s imprisonment

The “slaying” of Sam Dastyari, Milo Yiannopolous, and the saga of the unreturned Toll uniforms

Erikson’s associate Ricky Turner, wearing a Toll uniform, assaulting a protestor at the Melbourne stop on Milo Yiannopolous’ speaking tour (December 4, 2017)

On November 9 2017, then-Senator Sam Dastyari was speaking at a book launch for his autobiography at the Victoria University pub. Erikson and his associates Ricky Turner and Logan Spalding noticed him sitting at the bar, started filming and began shouting at Dastyari, calling him a “monkey”, a “terrorist” and demanding that he return to his home country of Iran. When one attendee called Erikson a racist, Erikson retorted “what race is Islam?” to which Tim Watts MP further retorted “what race is dickhead?”. Dastyari didn’t file charges, however the incident created intense media interest.

Although neither Erikson or Turner never said a word in their spray of abuse about the then-not-yet-public allegations that Dastyari informed a CCP-linked donor that he was under ASIO surveillance, Erikson maintains that his abuse was intended to “expose” this relationship having branded himself as “the Senator Slayer”, a moniker he still goes by today.

Logistics company Toll, who previously employed Erikson as a forklift driver, commenced proceedings against Erikson to force him to remove the video of the Dastyari incident from his social media accounts, another video making “injurious falsehoods” about Toll’s treatment of employees, and to recover company uniforms that Erikson and Turner could be seen wearing in the video. Toll’s enterprise agreement requires employees return any uniforms in their possession to the company at the end of their engagement. Erikson had been fired in 2014 and Turner had never been employed by the company.

Instead of following the initial order or seeking clarification for what the order required, Erikson purchased another Toll uniform from a charity shop which he then wore to court when the time limits on the order lapsed. He was eventually held in contempt and was slapped with a [suspended] $10 thousand fine.

I formed the view that it was likely that when it suits him, [Erikson] has a tenuous relationship with the truth.

Toll Transport Pty Ltd & Ors v Erikson (no 2) [2018] FCCA 308 [26b], in reference to Erikson’s often contradictory explanations for his contemptible behaviour.

A month later, insolvent paedophilia advocate Milo Yiannopolous was giving a talk as part of a speaking tour in Melbourne, which was faced significant protest from anti-racism groups. Erikson, Turner, and Avi Yemeni showed up as part of a contingent to counter-protest. The confrontation between the two protests collapsed into a riot with Turner ending up on the front page of the Herald Sun, wearing a Toll uniform (presumably Erikson’s), viciously assaulting a protestor. Erikson was convicted in 2019 of affray and avoided jail despite his growing criminal record.

During a court appearance in the Toll proceedings, Erikson inadvertently asked to be sworn in on a Quran believing the ornately decorated book he was pointing was a Bible, much to the amusement of the press. Erikson has faced multiple contempt proceedings before the Federal Circuit Court as he failed to remove the Dastyari video from some of his social media pages.

The Federation Square Incident

Erikson, minutes before being arrested in Fed Square, April 2019

Erikson was also recently convicted of disrupting an Islamic prayer service being held in Federation Square as part of an Islamic festival, shouting Islamophobic canards at those in attendance. He was issued with a move-on order, which he ignored, before being arrested.

Curiously, when given the option to attend a deradicalization program and submit to a community corrections order (which would have forced him to stop posting), he instead opted for a month in jail. In what might be his singular legal success in so many years of being a perennial self-represented defendant, he immediately appealed his sentence which saw him released on bail as the remand period for the appellate proceedings would have been longer than the original sentence. Whether his idea of a legal strategy pays off will be known after his appeal hearing before the Magistrates Court: tomorrow morning at 10 am.

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