Who is the Real Rukshan?

6 min read
Independent media or right-wing antagonist? Protest live-streamer Rukshan Fernando has grown his online following into the hundreds of thousands in the past fortnight.
Footage from Rukshan Fernando's live stream shows police moving in on protesters at the Shrine of Remembrance. Meanwhile, on his social media Telegram channel, followed by 13,000 people, he preaches about Premier Daniel Andrews "super-spreading misinformation" and writes "the world is watching Australia in disbelief as our leaders strip our rights, freedoms and dignity". Police have twice attended his house in Melbourne's south-east to warn him not to attend protests – warnings he has ignored. Academics and sociologists believe Fernando is amplifying a movement that is misguided, especially in a pandemic, and has deeply unsavoury elements. But he is also documenting the actions of an increasingly militarised police force, whose at times aggressive behaviour would unnerve most Melburnians.

Videographer Real Rukshan, aka Rukshan Fernando, filming in Melbourne's CBD this week. Credit:Simone Fox Koob Fernando said he was supportive of Andrews when the first pandemic lockdown began in March 2020. "When I had to close my business I 100 per cent supported the Andrews government and the decisions ... I was going around telling people to support the Andrews government … Down the track I was disillusioned with some of the decisions he was making, particularly on businesses and the lack of transparency, the quarantine issue." He began live-streaming the protests earlier this year but says he does not necessarily endorse the views of participants, which he concedes may include a fringe Nazi element. Fernando was interviewed in August 2020 on a videocast by Tim Wilms, a vlogger notable for interviewing leaders of the Proud Boys, the United Patriots Front and Nazis, but rejects the idea the protests are organised by extremist elements, or are used as a recruiting tool for them as has been suggested by union chief Sally McManus and former federal opposition leader Bill Shorten, who described the protesters as "man-baby Nazis".

"I don't think it's representative of the majority…
Patrick O'Neil
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