Hatch reporter Scott Falconer was in for a few shocks when he went to see divisive commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos.
Walking from the light rail station in Sydney’s Leichhardt North, the first sign that something is different about this show pops up one block closer.
Two police officers are standing on a street corner; just standing, not patrolling or having just got out of their car to talk to someone. Further along there are two more cops, this time guarding a barrier that blocks off a road. A motorist asks what is happening that requires a roadblock.
“Just a guy speaking at an event down there,” is the response.
We walk past the cops, unsure if we are meant to show our tickets in order to pass, but all we get is a curt “hey guys” and are let through.
Rounding the final corner we are witness to what should be a rare sight; groups of police officers scattered all around the Lilyfield venue we are heading to, and mounted police waiting at set locations.
A Channel Seven news van is parked outside. The reporter’s sitting on a seat nearby as the crew discusses plans for their broadcast.
We walk past some police vehicles with barking dogs in the back and wait across the road from Le Montage. A small crowd has started to gather already – we’re two hours early.
The mounted police rotate positions, clopping down the road and adding to the pile of horse droppings already in front of Le Montage. A Public Order and Riot Squad car pulls up nearby. A police boat is moored off a nearby jetty (the venue overlooks Iron Cove Bay) and police rescue officers in bright white uniforms are conversing with higher ranks in peaked caps across the road.
Joggers and cyclists have been passing through this hive of activity throughout the time Grace and I have been waiting, and one of them stops to ask Grace a question.
“What happened?” she asks.
“Oh, it’s this speaker called Milo. There was violence at his show in Melbourne and protesters here yesterday, someone threw a shoe at him too,” Grace says.
“I thought someone must have been murdered,” the jogger says, then jogs on.
We decide after a while to try to join the line that is forming at the doors of Le Montage, but are unsure if our student tickets will let us in yet. The cops guarding the gate look at our tickets and let us through, so we jump in the line.
I notice a crowd of purely young white men – oh wait… no it isn’t. The crowd is surprisingly diverse. A black Year 12 student tells a group of older guys in front of us, how he has lost almost all of his friends because of his views. One of the men he’s speaking to was at Milo’s Adelaide show.
Behind us, an Asian couple excitedly points out Daisy Cousens, a young Australian conservative commentator known for her anti-feminist ideas.
At the front of the line former Labor leader Mark Latham talks to an older lady about her ticket, she ends up showing it to a security guard next to us and is allowed through to a dining area in the shade, where a man with a black and gold MAGA (Make America/Australia Great Again) hat is among people already eating.
After a while, a big black bus pulls up outside the gate with Limo Bus emblazoned on the side in swirly writing. Everyone wonders aloud if this is the man they have paid to come and see.
Then a group of teenagers get off; it turns out their school formal is on the same day and in the same place as one of the most divisive speakers in recent history. The children look around at the police presence and walk quickly up the steps to a side door reserved for their event, casting quick looks at the line of people queuing at the main door.
As the time gets closer to when the doors open, people start talking about the lack of protesters. The consensus seems to be that the potential for rain and the heavy police presence in the area has scared them away for the day.
People talk and laugh about a shoe throwing incident from the night before. There is a mixture among the queue of happiness that they do not have to deal with insults hurled at them, and a mild sadness that they do not get the pre-show entertainment of the previous night.
Finally the doors open, and we are scanned one-by-one with a metal detecting wand before we are allowed through the door. The women hand in their bags and receive a numbered tag so they can pick them up after the show.
Upstairs we are divided into seating sections based on our tickets, Grace and I manage to get a seat fairly close to the front, behind a solid looking man with a tattoo on the back of his neck. He talks politely with the elderly couple sitting next to him as the women from Penthouse guide people to the VIP section to our right.
Campy music blares over speakers as a picture of Milo in a Mad Max setting is projected onto screens at the front of the venue.
Eventually it seems like all the seats are filled, people are standing at the back of the room and the staff walk around the venue checking if there are any empty ones and asking people to move along if there are.
Around eight o’clock, the editor for Penthouse comes onto the stage and gives a fairly funny speech about political correctness personified by a man called Trent who wrote him angry letters when they announced they were hosting Milo Yiannopoulis.
Following him is Mark Latham, to thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. He seems a little shocked by the reception, I doubt he was this popular as a politician, but delivers a speech about the state of the country and announces that Milo will be on stage soon. He leaves the stage, again to applause and cheers.
As he walks down the aisle near me people either call out to him or say quietly if they are close enough; “Good work Mark” or “You’re a legend Marky”.
The stage is quiet for 10 to 15 minutes, then all of a sudden the music ramps up and the smoke machine billows out fake fog. Striding out onto the stage comes Milo, the figure of so much controversy, clad in a ridiculous fur coat and overly-extravagant double breasted suit, his sunglasses and partially bleached hair completing his outlandish look.
The crowd chants his name over and over and then gradually falls silent.
Milo takes a moment before he speaks, then holds something up for the crowd to see.
“I have the shoe!” he says, as the crowd roars with laughter – Scott Falconer
(Featured image: Milo on stage in Sydney. Photo: Grace Cuskelly)