Online there has been a flurry of vigorous debate regarding violence. There are both pieces for and against riots at the casino. This focus on the relative merits of “violence” is a distraction for the movement and plays into John Keys hands at this critical time.
For one, the chances of a spontaneous riot on February 4th are very limited. Historically, riots are spontaneous outpouring of public outrage. As a general rule, a riot is not called in advance and openly advertised in advance. John Key and the police know this. The reason the police are organising “public order response” training is not mitigate a real threat of public disorder- it is an attempt to intimidate the majority of New Zealander’s into not attending any further protests against this trade deal.
Debate between activists for or against “violent protests” of the campaign miss the point.
Firstly, to argue against “violent protest” at rallies is at best unnecessary and at worst buys into the narrative the John Key is trying to create. It is a lie that the campaign has been violent to date spread by the government and its allies in the media. Accentuating the “peaceful nature” of the protests actually just validates John Key’s narrative. Buying into this discussion can help to distract from the protests message- that a clear majority oppose this trade deal.
In the second instance, those calling for an “escalation” in protest methods can also be wide of the mark. John Key is realistically not afraid of people dropping cow manure at MP offices, and the chances of the protests storming Sky City to stop the deal are limited to say the least. John Key is afraid of the political consequences or an organised majority holding him and his government to account on this, or other anti-popular policies.
John Key will be mobilising the police and labeling of protesters as violent. Organisers should seek to avoid unnecessary or unhelpful conflict with the police, but this is a decision that is largely outside of the control of activists. If there is a political direction to the police to crackdown on protests, they will do so regardless of the kaupapa or ‘family friendliness’ of an event. These actions from John Key has been designed to divide the movement and intimidate others from being involved. The only effective defense against police violence it large, vibrant movements and popular support.
It is important that we do not turn on other activists- it’s what John Key wants. Instead the movement needs to find ways to move forward democratically, and relentlessly express the powerful truth- a clear majority of working people in New Zealand will not benefit from, have not been consulted in and actively oppose this trade deal.
Let’s channel our energies into four useful directions.
- All out for the TPPA at protests on February 4th– lets march on SkyCity and let John Key know what we think- do not be intimidated out of attendance.
- Lets pack out town halls up and down the country with Jane Kelsey’s tour this week.
- Following the call from up north, as many as possible should north to Waitangi to show John Key we won’t be finished easily.
- Even if this trade deal passes, it is essential that those who have got active through this campaign stay fighting, because every time a medicine cost goes up or every time a corporation dodges an environmental law- it will be another opportunity for us to fight, and even if we loose at the signing, we can win the battles to come.
Ben’s a long time socialist and a member of the Mana Movement.