A “Menu” Of Protest: Confronting Riot Police shouldn’t be the only protest option on 4 February

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ONE OF THE MANY INNOVATIONS pioneered by Halt All Racist Tours (HART) in 1981 was the protest “menu”. Not every opponent of Apartheid relished the prospect of going head-to-head with the infamous “Red” and “Blue” riot squads. Nor, following the violence unleashed following the cancelled Hamilton game, were there all that many protesters willing to confront the Springbok Tour’s most rabid supporters. Rather than see a large number of its own supporters stay away from the protests, however, the HART leadership came up with the idea of offering a menu of options.

For the most militant, there were “Special Ops”. Some of these involved small bands of protesters taking out the television signal relay-stations essential to broadcasting the games live. Other groups blocked motorways, ran onto airport runways, and immobilised the public transport services essential for getting Rugby fans to the match venue.

Perhaps the most famous of these “Special Ops” came on the final day of the Tour when a light aircraft made repeated runs over the Third Test, at Eden Park, dropping flour-bombs on Springbok and All Black alike!

Participants in these operations knew and accepted the risk of being arrested, tried and convicted. The flour-bomber of Eden Park, Marx Jones, spent eight months in prison for his spectacular protest. John Minto was sentenced to six months jail for blockading Rotorua Airport. Special Ops were not for the faint-hearted!

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The next option on the protest menu involved testing the perimeter of the stadium where the Springboks were playing. This was the option that generated the images of the 1981 Springbok Tour with which New Zealanders are most familiar. The protesters are helmeted and padded-up against the Riot Squads’ infamous PR-24 long batons, and many carry wooden shields designed to prevent the sort of baton attack that injured so many defenceless protesters outside Christchurch’s Lancaster Park during the First Test.

The final option was intended for those who wished to avoid any kind of confrontation with either the Police or the Tour’s supporters. Many of those who availed themselves of this option were members of the mainstream Christian denominations. Others were elderly, or the parents of kids who wanted to participate safely in the anti-Apartheid protests. Such events took a variety of forms. Some groups opted for candlelight vigils and/or prayer meetings in the major centres’ churches and cathedrals. Others preferred to join strictly non-confrontational street marches protected by ordinary (i.e. non-riot-squad) police constables.

By offering its supporters these gradations of protest, HART maximised the full potential of the movement it had so patiently assembled over the entire decade of the 1970s. It was a shrewd tactical solution to the problem of what to do with people who wanted to do more than simply march up and down the street. The most militant opponents of the Tour were able to plan and execute radical protest actions of which HART remained entirely ignorant. Meanwhile, the perimeter-testers and the witness-bearers were able to engage in protests with which they felt morally (and legally) comfortable.

There is probably insufficient time for the anti-TPPA movement to develop a similar menu of protest actions against the signing of the TPPA on 4 February. “It’s Our Future” appears to be a much less structured organisation than HART, which boasted its own National Council for determining the anti-Apartheid movement’s strategic and tactical priorities.

Some consideration should, nevertheless, be given to the problem created by the Police’s announcement that it has been engaged for some time in “Public Order Training” – a.k.a. Riot Control. There will be many “Middle New Zealanders” reconsidering their level of commitment to the anti-TPPA cause in the light of this information. Very few will want to risk either themselves of their families by participating in a demonstration where that sort of heavy-handed policing is in prospect. In the absence of a “safe” alternative, people with jobs to lose and mortgages to pay are most unlikely to venture much further than the Town Hall on 26 January.

If, however, they were invited to turn up to the Auckland War Memorial in the Domain on 4 February, to recall the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for New Zealand’s national sovereignty, and to condemn John Key’s government for signing a document which puts that sovereignty at risk – thereby negating the sacrifice of so many young Kiwis – then it is my belief that many hundreds of Aucklanders who might otherwise have remained at home will seize the opportunity of registering a safe and responsible protest.

Something for Jane Kelsey and her comrades to think about. Because, this time, it’s not the rights and freedoms of Black South Africans that New Zealanders are fighting for – it’s their own.

 

21 COMMENTS

    • HOWEVER, in order to show the strength of our deep distrust, strong feeling and sincere opposition to the many very bad aspects of the TPPA, it is important that the protest gathering on the 4th of Feb should be HUGE though peaceful and non confrontational with the police. The police are not the enemy.

  1. What Chris is raising as an option is what I thought the organisers of the Anti TPPA protest actions would have had on their minds. It does make a lot of sense to offer a variety of activities, at various locations, most certainly also for those who rather cherish a safe and family style event.

    Others may wish to be a bit bolder and offer robust lines of protest action. This should have been considered from the start, but I hope that there will be accommodation of some options, that can perhaps also be announced tomorrow at the Auckland Town Hall meeting.

  2. Excellent. Protest comes in many forms and is limited only by the imagination and creativity of its participants.

    And precisely because of the large cross section of those participants , if there is a duration of action , a menu would be the most logical. Not every participant wants to risk one single action if it involves physical harm to themselves or loved ones – ie : their young children. Or those elderly that still wish to register their protest but in a safe and dignified manner.

    Therefore , if there is time – or follow up protests this is the way to go. There is something very strong about large numbers of demonstrators simply congregating and participating in a family friendly and safe activity that even adds an element of fun to the event.

    And as you say , a demonstration at the Auckland war memorial that includes fun activity’s for the kids – a kids zone – so to speak. Why not a few bands playing between speakers and a few refreshment stalls for example.

    Even though the loss of sovereignty is a serious issue and fun activity’s seem almost frivolous … those frivolous ‘activity’s’ are a constant reminder of just why we protest – for the future generations and those of the present – just doing those same family things in a family way we should be entitled to free from foreign controls.

    This is just one aspect to a menu but it is an important one. It cannot be used as propaganda by a govt hell bent on discrediting the core message of what this is all about – our sovereignty as a nation.

    Nor can agent provocateurs easily be used to incite incidents.

    This way the issues becomes normalized in everyday speech and the undecided can come forward in support without feeling threatened.

    I ended up in the ‘Patu ‘ unit back in 1981 … inadvertently , … and it was surreal to see this happening in my country. People bloodied and injured , many traumatized.

    And the memory of a lone , terrified cop on top of a skip bin furiously swinging his baton with a look of panic on his face as a huge column of demonstrators were shunting those skip bins ( with him on top of it ) out of the way was something I wont forget.

    My heart went out to all those involved. Us the New Zealanders.

  3. All that you wrote sounds great…but Chris tell us what you plan to do you haven’t already forgotten that you claimed you stood for ACTION. I would like to hear exactly what you intend…TO DO!

    • Prolly praying mate, coz we all know the 81 tour protest was won by prayer and not direct action…

      Yeah right…

  4. Hopefully Mike Bush has told the Police to behave, and hopefully none of the protesters will misbehave either, we need to take a mature approach to this issue which is critical to this countrys long term future. We are not anti Free Trade we are questioning the clauses in the TPPA Agreement ie the ISDS Clauses?

    Likewise I hope everyone is diplomatic at Waitangi Day, I get sick of MSM winding the show up and reporting all the negatives ie Mike Hoskings on State Broadcasting Channel TV One has already started the wind up?

  5. Hopefully Mike Bush has told the Police to behave, and hopefully none of the protesters will misbehave either, we need to take a mature approach to this issue which is critical to this countrys long term future. We are not anti Free Trade we are questioning the clauses in the TPPA Agreement ie the ISDS Clauses?

    Likewise I hope everyone is diplomatic at Waitangi Day, I get sick of MSM winding the show up and reporting all the negatives ie Mike Hoskings on State Broadcasting Channel TV One has already started the wind up?

    • Hopefully Mike Bush has told the Police to behave,

      Yeah right, I’m hopeful too, but lest we forget, only two or three years ago the police manufactured a violent confrontation with peaceful students on Simons St. And there is a very long history of similar and worse incidents.

  6. All well and good but the traitor Key will ignore the protests and give away our sovereignty to ingratiate his sleazy friends like a boy with the key to his mum’s liquor cabinet.

    These protests are likely to be only the opening shots in the campaign to oust Key and his fellow kleptocrats and reclaim our sovereignty.

  7. “Its our future NZ” seems the main collective in this situation in regards the Auckland Feb 4 activities

    their plans to avoid Sky City will wind up the more militant sector and definitely the militant minority, it is a trade off between giving the trade ministers a rev up with smaller numbers and getting larger numbers by going down Queen St, it should be noted however that non violent “civil disobedience” is called for, so sit downs perhaps,

    it is the numbers game, a couple of thousand at least are required for a breakaway group to handle Sky City without getting boxed in by the cops

    interestingly in terms of this debate and Chris piece, just got my mint copy of Ross Meurant’s “Red Squad Story…” out and it still gives you a jolt, describing PR24 long baton use “Rapid Action: is an up tempo prodding of the baton to the mid section, and also includes downward chops with the short end to the collar bone and, depending on the likely injury to be sustained by the Police, a combination of short and long end crosses to the head at a rapid rate.”

    In reality a number of those cops snapped and used the batons indiscriminately when not in personal danger, I was saved by my crash helmet only at Eden Park on one occasion; and hopefully the NZ Police have moved on from the 1981 Red Squads training chant–“Eat more, root more, drink more piss…”–hardly believable these days but true

    • oh well it had to happen, an organisational response to the tactical differences over the 4th of Feb, it is understandable but basically forces people to choose between the blockade or march, “Its our future NZ” march really should have at least a stop at Sky City rather than skirt round it, there is still time to change plans
      https://www.facebook.com/events/164280047278090/

  8. From my experience it always really seems to annoy the police when protesters dress up in silly costumes, clowns especially seem to piss them off for some reason.

  9. As one of the 1981 tour protest Christchurch protesters I can only agree with everything in the blog above.

    It was terrifying facing the helmeted “red squad” even in the company of several thousand others.

    But on First test day we kept the cops guessing as the protest split into two or three parts which kept the cops off guard a bit.

    Even had a cop in plain clothes asking me why i was in a padded suit and wearing a bloody motor cycle helmet along with many others i might say who had push bike helmets and the likes.

    It is not fun facing down a crowd of riot trained cops.

    But it didn’t stop me from turning out.

    Their were many young kids in the protest that day who were deliberatly placed in the middle or towards the back of the protest marches.

    So anyone thinking of not going on the march think again, it is even more important now that you do go.

  10. Yes Chris, I’m aware that you don’t really like action but often there is no choice. With the government using the tools of state to shut us all up (however violently they choose to police) we have only the option of giving in or giving back.

    To hell with your wishy-washy middle class values mate. The Romanovs weren’t overthrown by the middle classes and neither will be the present Tsars, the financial fraternity.

    A bomb in the place of signing would achieve a lot more than all the waffle and piss-splashing that the middle classes seem to think qualify as action.

    Get real or get out…

  11. I’m all for civil disobedience and NVDA (Non-Violent Direct Action), and I encourage anyone who feels confident being part of a NVDA is free to turn up to Sky City with their affinity group (what, no affinity group? You just saw it on FarceBook? Do you ever know how NVDA works?). They should be respected for being willing to put their safety on the line for the kaupapa.

    But I have a message for the militants. Other protesters are not your foot soldiers, and respect for a “diversity of tactics” means you have to respect people’s right to choose a different tactic, and a different venue, rather than marching into a pre-prepared meat grinder. Have you even considered the possibility that the signing will be re-located at the last minute, and that the only people at Sky City will be the riot cops and the corporate media?

    Personally I think the number of people that turn up to any given action will say a lot less about the breadth of the opposition to the TPP, than the number of actions, and the diversity of the communities represented in their different styles and choice of venue.

  12. I shall be at the TPPA Protest wearing my usual working garb complete with the Hard Hat , badged with the Flag of New Zealand, and worn daily on the earthmoving site with pride.
    I shall be in the ” front rank steady ” of the Vanguard, there to mind the conduct of all sides. I trust we do not see the déjà vu of a Parihaka.

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