THE leader of far-right anti-Islam group United Patriots Front has appeared in court in Melbourne on charges relating to a video stunt in front of the City of Greater Bendigo Council offices.
Dozens of anti-racism protesters clashed with UPF supporters outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday as Blair Cottrell appeared on offensive behaviour charges.
Cottrell has been charged with helping make a video "with the intention of inciting serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of" Muslims on October 4, 2015.
He has previously said on Facebook he was charged over an incident in which UPF members filmed themselves beheading a dummy with a knife outside the Bendigo council's office in a protest against plans to build a mosque.
The video reportedly shows the dummy spilling fake blood on to the pavement, and men shouting "Arabic" phrases.
Fellow UPF members Christopher Shortis 45, and Neil Erikson, 32, were also charged over the video.
The High Court last year dismissed a final legal challenge against the council's approval of the Bendigo mosque, paving the way for it to be built.
Cottrell is also charged with defacing a footpath and the wall of a garden bed next to Bendigo City Council offices, causing $1100 worth of damage to council property and behaving in an offensive manner near the council offices.
On Monday, the anti-facist protesters screamed slogans such as "No Nazis, never again", "Muslims are welcome, racists are not" and "You'll always lose in Melbourne, f--- off" and pushed against a police guard surrounding Mr Cottrell and his supporters as they left the court.
About a dozen police officers were also standing guard outside the court room.
In a rare move usually reserved for cases involving serious violence offences, police required members of the public to register their IDs in order to enter the room.
Police said a magistrate had directed that only 30 people be allowed into the court room at a time and that all of them must be seated.
Cottrell's court hearing was adjourned until May 23, when he will appear again to contest the charges against him.
Outside court, he told Fairfax Media he would fight the charges, which represented a state government attack against the group, and more broadly "against Australian values".
"It's an attempt to silence us, to intimidate us, and also to create a new standard through which they can attack Australian values, break down our free speech, put us all under control."
He dismissed the court protest as minor, saying there were more police at court than protesters.
Debbie Brennan, a spokeswoman for Campaign Against Racism and Facism, said they had organised the protest to prevent the United Patriots Front forming arumoured "guard of honour" outside court ahead of Mr Cottrell's hearing.
"We know the importance of exercising our free speech to stop their hate speech," she said.
"If we weren't there doing that they would have a public platform and they would be able to grow from people who are suffering from economic crisis and are prepared to look at others to blame instead of the system."