Aussie Patriotic Clash

The Big Day Out festival’s request for the 50,000 who attended its January 25th Sydney show not to bring the Australian flag resulted in some of the same jingoism the festival was trying to avoid.

Ken West, co-director of Creative Festival Entertainment, made the request, saying that the flag had been hijacked as "gang colors" in ethnic clashes at Sydney’s Cronulla beach in 2005 and this month in clashes between Serb, Croatian and Greek youths at the Tennis Open championships in Melbourne.

"It was racism disguised as patriotism and I’m not going to tolerate it," West said, according to the U.K.’s Independent.

In recent years, fans have swung huge Australian flags during sets. Traditionally the Sydney show is held on January 26th, the public holiday for Australia Day. This year, Big Day Out moved the event back a day to offset the patriotic fervor.

Talk radio shows ran hot. Politicians from Prime Minister John Howard on down all weighed in on the request to leave the flags at home, with Howard calling the move "stupid and offensive" to Australians. The Returned Services Leagues, which represents war veterans, called for the show to be canceled.

But many fans were quick to defend Big Day Out. One concertgoer, Jeremy Smith, told national youth radio Triple J that last year, a man walked around with the flag demanding that other patrons kiss it. Smith refused, and was punched twice in the face, he said.