There are protests in Parliament’s grounds most weeks. Some are small events with just a handful of attendees, but those ones often last longer. Some are larger with a few hundred or thousand.
This week Parliament saw a biggish protest. It wasn’t anywhere near as large as the Climate Strike protests which managed enormous crowds from a very local catchment. This week’s was drawn from far afield and highly eclectic but managed a respectable size. The House was there to chat to attendees and take photos. Here are some moments.
The protest made an effort to bolster its size with a lot of volume, and a lot of flags. Tino Rangatiratanga flags, Māori Independence flags and also New Zealand flags - possibly in roughly equal numbers. Many flags were new out of the box with matching creases.
Iwi leaders encouraging Māori to protect their health through vaccination were presumably frustrated by the co-opting of Māori sovereignty symbols to an anti-vaccine message. Brian Tamaki’s own iwi seem unimpressed.
TVNZ get some interviews in before the main crowd arrives; a clever tactic because the noise will make interviewing harder later.
Protest organisers generally are often careless of their supporters’ hearing. Amplifiers are pushed way past coping and then aimed at the protesters rather than at Parliament.
Marlon Brando’s character in Wild Thing was asked “What are you rebelling against?” His reply, “Whadda you got?”
Ostensibly this was a protest against vaccine mandates but in reality the signs and shouts illustrated a heady potpourri of issues. This woman’s very detailed sign had various complaints including abortion reform and various Covid-19 restrictions as attacks on freedom of religion (and sport).
The staunch look of two members of the Headhunters is undermined a little by the stealthy arrival of a small boy retrieving his ball from between the legs of one of them. As well as Headhunters I noted members of the Mongrel Mob and Satans Slaves gangs at the protest.
Almost every protestor I asked or could tell the origin of was not local. Many came long distances. This attendee is from the Notorious Mongrel Mob chapter in Tokoroa.
There were also members of at least two gang-styled groups that aren’t actually gangs, but who wear gang-chic to match their audience. This member of Tribal Nation was at the protest, as were Destiny Church’s own patched men.
He told me that Tribal Nation focusses on suicide prevention. His huge Harley was in a matching shade of hornet green.
And on the edge of the frame a fence-hopper. Parliament is a popular thoroughfare but there were fewer gates open to Parliament grounds than usual so people created their own paths.
Attendees enjoying the shade of the Royal Pōhutukawa. This one was planted by the then Prince of Wales in 1920 (ie Edward who later abdicated).
The t-shirt reads “1-Outs Jacinda”. 1-Outs is a slang challenge to a one-on-one fight.
He also has a yellow Star of David painted on his right cheek referencing claims by some US Republicans that mask mandates (and later) vaccine mandates were akin to the Holocaust.
MPs are often treated very poorly by protesters but one insult is so common it has its own academic description. Logicians describe the fallacy of comparison with Nazis as 'Reductio ad Hitlerum'.
This is similar to Godwin’s Law which states that “as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches 1.”
Reductio ad Hitlerum is typically the rhetorical resort of those who lack more valid arguments, but knowing that probably doesn’t soften the experience of being at the pointy end of the comparison.
“No jab no job no Jacinda say the mob”. Is it usual for protesters to refer to themselves as a mob?
Often when people protest against what they see as fascist they draw a diagonal line through a swastika. This prevents confusion about which side they are on. There were many swastikas at this protest but few if any were crossed out.
Worse than a hateful comparison is an implied or real threat of violence. Here a protestor holds a small gallows with what I interpret as a representation of the prime minister in the noose. X eyes indicate she is dead.
After those photos you may need a sit down… In any large protest at Parliament there is always someone who realises that the very best viewpoint is to be had by staying far away and sitting on the fence, so to speak.
And on a hot day there are always a lucky few who get a shady spot, say halfway up a 160-year-old pōhutukawa. Many of Parliament’s trees predate the buildings and hark back to when there were dual creeks and the sandy Waititi beach lay at the bottom of the hill.
This attendee came prepared with appropriate reading material for a long day; specifically Protest: Tautohetohe' a history of New Zealand protest by Gibson, Williams and Cairns.
A significant proportion of attendees were Māori and many were regional but not all. It was a real mix. There were gangs and church groups, hippies, wellness believers, and a few I thought might belong to the far right. There were also the disabled and elderly, and many families. Among them were many of the people most at risk from Covid-19.
Here one tiny tamariki somehow sleeps on through the din.
Did I mention loud? A protester borrows someone's loud hailer to berate the front wall of the Beehive.
The stone wall he is shouting at happens to have this this tiny reminder pasted on it. “Remember to get vaccinated, otherwise a vaccinated person might get sick from the virus they vaccinated against because you’re not vaccinated.”
Apparently we are in Kansas now Dorothy and, if Q is to believed, a global cabal of leftist satanic cannibalistic pedophiles needs to be stopped.
This attendee manages to combine a US flag, a MAGA hat, a Trump flag and a QAnon conspiracy theory T-shirt.
Speaker Trevor Mallard and Kiri Allan watch from the Speaker's balcony.
Earlier in the protest at a time when MPs would have all been in their weekly caucus meetings various protesters around me looked up at the Beehive and complained that the MPs weren’t even at the windows. You can’t really see through the windows of the Beehive to tell either way, but MPs were all elsewhere regardless.
Police stayed out of the picture, leaving things to Parliament's security until the protest neared its end and any potential climax, at which point they emerged from the wings to add some heft, in case things got difficult.
As the protest winds down a group of officers line up in front of Parliament.
The protest finished with Ka Mate, the haka beloved by sports teams and composed by Te Rauparaha who is said to have wet his whistle at the Thistle Inn just a block away.
Consider that when Te Rauparaha was reportedly drinking at what was then a beachside bar in the mid 1800s, vaccination was already a proven medical intervention. The smallpox vaccine was mandatory for UK newborns by 1853. George Washington had made it mandatory for his continental army in 1777.
That’s nearly 250 years ago.
With the formal event over some protesters came over the barricades to bring their issues directly to the police.
Dealing with the unmasked at close quarters is an ongoing risk for police and may be one consideration in discussions as to whether they too require a vaccination mandate.
As police withdrew, allowing people to depart more easily, a few protesters moved forward to a second barricade line at the base of Parliament's steps to vent spleen at them and at the building beyond.
Note the two different approaches from protestors in this picture: pointing and shouting at the government (on the left), and praying at the government (on the right).
A protestor in a V-for-Vendetta mask lobs idle potshots at media and police from his supply of Farmbake Cookies. I had said to him that lobbing things in the direction of the police might just get him in trouble. “Can I help you!” he tartly replied.
Some protesters I listened to had odd ideas about Covid and vaccination. Some denied there is a pandemic at all.
I felt for them. It’s tiring enough dealing with the shifting certainty of a pandemic; but add in confusion, conspiracy and a vast network of malicious authorities - that must be both exhausting and terrifying. It’s no wonder some seemed almost desperate.
Referring to the mandate for the health sector, a care sector worker shouts "Who’s going to look after the kaumātua now? Who’s going to look after the tamariki?"
After all the noise and tension one attendee rounds off his protest in a more mellow fashion by stopping to renew the ember on something that looks just a bit blunt.