Blackshirt chief stands firm


By Angela O'Connor
September 28, 2004


John Abbott.
Photo: Jesse Marlow

The leader of the Blackshirts fathers' protest group told the County Court yesterday its name was chosen to get attention.

John Abbott, 58, who has pleaded not guilty to two charges of stalking two mothers near their homes in 2001, said he chose the name specifically.

Asked by prosecutor Mark Dean, SC, if he knew the name was associated with the fascist Blackshirts in Italy before World War II and that it was associated with violent demonstrations and intimidating behaviour, Mr Abbott said he "took advantage of a name that was going to mean publicity".

He was not concerned that the name might create fear because he always notified police of his intended demonstrations and he knew the police would be there.

He did not believe the two women were frightened by the Blackshirts' demonstrations.

He agreed with Mr Dean that he kept a rack of black shirts at his Brunswick business premises and, when he arranged a demonstration, he rang up members of the group to come and collect their shirts.

The court has heard that on three Saturday mornings, Mr Abbott with four or five other group members gathered in the neighbourhoods of two divorced women. They were dressed in black, with black bandannas covering their lower faces and Mr Abbott used a megaphone to shout slogans about divorce and access.

They distributed leaflets in neighbours' letter boxes. Two leaflets contained the first names of the two women, with one referred to as a "so-called mother" and the other accusing the woman of having "betrayed her son and family".

Mr Abbott said he demonstrated in the women's neighbourhoods to encourage their mothers and grandmothers to aid in negotiations on the fathers' access to their children. "My personal duty is to inform the neighbours what is going on," he said.

On one occasion he arranged a demonstration to coincide with a man calling at a woman's home to collect his son. He said the TV show A Current Affair had phoned him and arranged to be there to film the man collecting the child.

He said all his protests were meant to be peaceful - he said the issue was fathers' access to their children.

The hearing before Judge Leslie Ross continues.