Tuesday March 19, 2019
By ROBYN DIXON
On Friday, he was just another Australian high school student. By the end of the weekend, 17-year-old Will Connolly was the international sensation #EggBoy, the prankster who launched a thousand (give or take) memes.
Saturday was an eventful day for Connolly, who smashed an egg on the head of Australian Sen. Fraser Anning, who promptly punched him, after which Connolly was grabbed in a violent headlock and wrestled to the ground by bystanders, led away by police, released and later taken to the hospital by his mother, having sustained a twisted ankle, a sore throat and bruises.
Sunday was big too. The hashtag #EggBoy went viral as people all over the world thanked the Melbourne teenager for standing up to Anning, who blamed “Muslim fanatics” for the mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques, which was allegedly carried out by an Australian white supremacist.
Connolly’s Instagram account went crazy. (It now has over half a million followers.) Several U.S. and Australian bands offered him free concert tickets for life.
But Monday was just another day at Brighton Secondary College for Connolly, who wore a school uniform with shorts, a tie slightly askew and his shirt hanging out as he brushed off television reporters and climbed into the family car on his way to class.
Connolly’s target, Anning, drew international ire when he issued a statement on Australian parliamentary letterhead blaming Muslims for the shooting deaths of 50 people at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was arrested and charged in the mass killing.
Australia, searching for redemption and meaning after the massacre, seized on Connolly as a hero. Soon a petition was circulating to nominate him as Australian of the Year. Tributes poured in from around the world while the #Eggboy memes multiplied.
Someone set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for possible legal fees (and more eggs).
Many were horrified by video images of the boy’s fearful face as five men, including at least one member of a white supremacist fringe group, held him down, squeezing hard on his neck and shouting, “We’re all Australians here,” and, “Don’t let him go.”
In Melbourne, a city full of narrow lanes known for its artistic graffiti, artist Van T. Rudd painted a mural dedicated to #EggBoy.
Philadelphia 76ers basketball player Ben Simmons, who is Australian, called Connolly an “Australian legend.” A Turkish philosophy professor invited Connolly to vacation in Turkey, all expenses paid.
But some were critical, including actor Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 1990s TV show “Lois & Clark.” He tweeted: “I would have knocked that kid cold.”
Australia has a long history of egg-throwing in politics, going back to 1917, when a man named Patrick Brosnan threw an egg at Prime Minister Billy Hughes in protest over Hughes’ plans for military conscription. Hughes’ hat flew off and the prime minister reached inside his jacket to pull out his gun, only to find he had left it behind.
Anning reacted to the egg Saturday by striking Connolly twice. Five of Anning’s supporters, including far right white nationalist Neil Erikson, held Connolly in a headlock on the floor.
The police minister for the state of Victoria, Lisa Neville, told reporters that police were examining video of the egging and its aftermath and interviewing witnesses to determine whether to file charges against any of those involved.
Meanwhile, an online petition sponsored by the activist organization change.org Australia, calling for Anning to be “pushed to resign” from Parliament, became the fastest-growing petition in Australian history, gathering 1.2 million signatures in three days, the group said.
One of the organizers of the petition, Sydney neurologist Kate Ahmad, told the Age newspaper that she knew Australian law provided no legal means to remove a senator, but that the petition sent a strong message “to make clear that this kind of hate speech won’t be accepted."
At a press conference Monday, Anning stood by his decision to strike the boy. ‘‘He got a slap across the face, which is what his mother should have given him long ago, because he’s been misbehaving badly,’’ he said.
Connolly’s Twitter account was suspended over the weekend with a notice from Twitter that the account violated its rules. Earlier, he had posted a short video of himself saying: “Don’t egg politicians. You get tackled by 30 bogans at the same time. I learned the hard way.” (Bogan is an Australian slang term suggesting a trashy, poorly educated person.)
A new account was opened in Connolly’s name.
Local media cited Connolly’s mother, who was not identified by name, as saying the incident had been “pretty overwhelming” for her son.
“He’s doing OK, but he’s only 17 years old. It’s been traumatic,” she said.