United Patriots Front leader in court

Melissa Iaria

The leader of a far right group has appeared in a Melbourne court accused of offending Muslims, as an opposing group protested outside shouting anti-racism slogans.

A large line of police kept guard outside the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Monday as demonstrators shouted: "Muslims are welcome, racists are not" and held placards, reading: "Fascist-free zone".

The protesters assembled as United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell, 35, and supporters, Neil Erikson, 32, and Christopher Neil Shortis, 45, appeared on charges under Victorian racial vilification laws.

"I don't think the mafia would get this much attention," Cottrell told AAP.

The charges were laid after a mock beheading of an effigy during protests against a Bendigo mosque in 2015.

The three men are accused of defacing a footpath and garden bed wall at the Bendigo council offices, wilful damage, making a video aiming to incite contempt for Muslims, and behaving in an offensive manner.

Media were denied access to the court room to hear the case, because it was deemed full.

After the brief mention hearing, Cottrell labelled the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act "ridiculous".

"They're basically the first step towards blasphemy laws," he said.

"We're going to fight it to the end and we will win."

Cottrell said the mock beheading was an attempt to bring to the Bendigo community's attention to the barbarity of it.

"I love this country, I love Australia. I want to keep it Australian," he added.

Shortis said: "We're expressing our concerns that the bigger the Islamic population grows in this country, the more danger that Australian citizens will find themselves in."

Later, the UPF mocked the protesters on its website.

"About 15-20 Marxist uni kids took the day off their liberal arts course and embarrassed themselves today outside of the courts," it said on its Facebook page.

The UPF previously called for donations to cover Cottrell's court costs for what it called an "unprecedented battle for free speech".

Members of the UPF have clashed previously against anti-racism demonstrators in protests across Melbourne.

Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg adjourned the matter for a contest mention on May 23.