Labor senator Sam Dastyari has hit back at “f**kwits” who called him a “terrorist” and a “little monkey” who should go back to Iran.
Three members of the far-right white nationalist group Patriot Blue ambushed Senator Dastyari at the Victoria University bar in Footscray on Thursday, as he ordered drinks ahead of a talk about his book.
In a video uploaded to social media labelled ‘Patriot Blue Crash Sam Dastyari’s Safe Space!’, Neil Erikson and another man who identify themselves as part of the anti-Islam Patriot Blue group surround Senator Dastyari and abuse him, repeatedly asking him “What race is Islam?”
“Why don’t you go back to Iran you terrorist?” one asked.
The video shows Senator Dastyari trying to avoid the men, who follow him over to a table with Gellibrand MP Tim Watts.
“You racist rednecks, you follow me everywhere I go,” Senator Dastyari told them.
“Honestly I think you guys are a bunch of racists I don’t have time for you… you’re embarrassing yourself.”
Senator Dastyari, who was born in Iran and arrived in Australia at the age of four, identifies as a non-practising Muslim.
In response to their repeat pestering of Senator Dastyari with “What race is Islam?”, Mr Watts said they had “a pretty sad life” and asked “what race is dickhead, what race is a dickhead?”
Security were called, but the men left before they arrived.
Mr Erikson was convicted earlier this year under Victoria’s new racial and religious tolerance legislation when he and two other members of the United Patriots Front staged a mock beheading of a dummy outside the Bendigo council offices in protest against plans to build a mosque.
In 2014, he was convicted of stalking a Melbourne rabbi, phoning him to abuse him for his faith and warning him to “Give me the money Jew or else I will get you”.
He plans to host a ‘Defend Milo Yiannopoulos Rally’ when the far-right provocateur speaks in Melbourne next month.
In footage of Thursday night’s incident, Mr Erikson was shown wearing a work shirt with a Toll logo.
A Toll Group spokeswoman said Mr Erikson is not currently employed by Toll.
“Toll can confirm that the individual wearing the Toll polo shirt is not employed by Toll, and has not worked for us for several months,” she said.
“The actions of these individuals in no way reflect our beliefs and values as a company.”
“At Toll, we celebrate our diverse workforce and we expect all of our people to behave in a manner that is consistent with our values and stated policies at all times.”
Following the incident Senator Dastyari labelled the men as white nationalists, Islamophobes and f**kwits.
“Everywhere I go I get white nationalists follow me. It may have something to do with being a Muslim – hard to believe.
“All of this is the rise of the radical right in Australia. It’s the rise of the One Nation right.
“These are people who feel incredibly empowered because of what Pauline Hanson has done for them… it’s what Trump has done in the US, you dance so far to the right it gives those a little further out a sense of entitlement, a sense of belonging.”
Victoria University vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins condemned the actions of the group and said VU has a zero tolerance approach to bigotry and racism.
“Victoria University encourages openness, inclusiveness and diversity. Unfortunately, these values were severely compromised by a small group wanting to disrupt a book event involving Australian Senator Sam Dastyari and Federal Labor MP Tim Watts at the VU Bar,” he said.