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In which I avoid getting arrested - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 2nd, 2011

09:36 am - In which I avoid getting arrested

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Well that was interesting. This was the third protest event I've attended this year - that's the most I've protested in a 5-year span ever in my life. This year I've had a lot more to protest about, although I'm unsure if this is to do with objective external events or a raised awareness of the underlying causes.


By my estimate about 120 people turned up. Other estimates say 80, so *shrug*. Either way, to get more than 20 or 30 people to a protest in Wellington seems quite the achievement these days. There were a bunch of speeches in Cuba Mall, including from Keith Locke of the Greens and the NZCouncil for Civil Liberties, and some chanting, then we marched to the police station of all places.

I was asked why we didn't march to Parliament, and the answer to that is pretty simple - there's nobody there on the weekends. The point of protesting is to make your voices heard and yelling at an empty building in an empty park at the empty end of town isn't quite how it's supposed to go. So we went to the police station and stood there chanting "Shame" at the staunch looking police standing on the steps. More speeches, more chanting, then off to Civic Square. And that's where things got interesting.

You see there's a Rugby World Cup on, and the waterfront public spaces have been turned into a venue for rugby fans for the duration. In addition the Navy is in town celebrating an anniversary, and it was a beautiful day so there were a LOT of people on the waterfront. And the cops didn't want us going down there and disturbing the idyll, so they blocked off the walkway and wouldn't let us through.

A scuffle ensued in which protestors tried to breach the police line and the police pushed them back:



I'm in that picture, although you can't see my face. I was up there asking the police what law they were upholding by preventing us from moving forward. I asked all of them and weirdly not one of them had an answer. Anyway, people kept pushing and eventually a few got through and then a few more. My brother, who I mentioned the other day is not particularly politically active, was incensed by the police attempting to prevent us from moving forward, and he is quite large and was one of the first to break through. I followed him after getting no joy from the police and realising they probably weren't upholding any law.

I suspect that they simply didn't want the tourists to have a rabble of chanting hippies waltzing through the middle of their "Kiwi experience". There are no unhappy people in this country, nooooo! Anyone else seen any of Wellington's homeless around lately? Anyone wondered where they are? *cough*

Anyway, we continued along the waterfront to the fan zone and then had some more speeches for the benefit of the rugby fans, then broke up and went on our way. I'm a bit sunburnt. Ta da! Protest.

So what have I learned?

1. I'm not into chanting slogans. While I understand the collective effervescence theory and the impact of slogans, I don't think "2,4,6,8 No more police state" actually conveys information in a meaningful way to those who don't know what we're protesting about.

2. I need to put more thought into my sign. "RULE OF LAW POLICE STATE is a nice concise statement for those who already know what we're on about, but to educate those who don't, more information is needed. pombagira's was better. I think something like "Rule of law undermined by urgency = dodgy as" may have been better. Live and learn.

3. I should speak at these things. I'm articulate, I am not afraid of crowds, my voice carries, and while I do have pink hair, as soon as I open my mouth it's obvious I'm not a stoner hippie. Get over yourself Tats, you could add something to this by not being too shy to ask to speak.

4. I really am fucking bolshy. When the police started shoving people around (this is the first time this has happened in a protest I've been involved in) I found myself moving forward not backward and getting in the face of the cops. This worked in my favour this time, but may not always.

5. Our cops are pretty bloody good really. They helped with traffic control so we could march and took our chanting at them on the chin. Fact is none of those people are the ones I'm concerned about. In a roundabout way they are but in reality it's the higher-ups that are changing the law to empower the executive over the judiciary that are the problem, not our fluoro-raver-ground-force (even though yes, they do carry out the installation of the cameras), you know? And they were pretty good yesterday. The battens did not come out and even though we were right up in their faces, none of them lost their cool and they backed off when they realised it was going to escalate if they didn't.

I am very aware of my privilege in living in a country where I can shout in the face of the police and not have violence used against me. However, this does not mean I think giving them more power over my rights is ok. That would be a false dichotomy.

6. I don't think there's any more I can do. I've written to MPs, made submissions to Parliament, spread the word on social networks and by word of mouth, and marched in protests. To be honest I think this bill will still go through. I was disheartened to see how many people on the waterfront had no clue about the bill, how many thought we were idiots for protesting it, how many people actually believe the Urewera 18 were actually terrorists. I think a lot of people in this country are not concerned about video surveillance because it won't affect them personally and they haven't thought too much about the impact of overturning a decision by the Supreme Court on our 'constitution'.

7. People like me, who look relatively normal and are middle-aged, have jobs and can speak articulately on their topic should be out there more. Protesting here is left to the young, the disenfranchised, the hippies, the students - the people who are easy to ignore and dismiss. "Oh look, smelly hippies don't like the new law - so what's new and why should we care? Go the All Blacks!" And in New Zealand with our tiny population, there's also a bit of The Usual Suspects going on - you see the same people over and over again at protests. It would be pretty fucking different if over half the protestors were middle aged and well dressed. Just saying.


So, I still think this form of protest has a point and needs to happen since our dissent has been almost entirely institutionalised over the last 30 years and now the institutions are ignoring those forms of dissent as well. For me personally, I'll keep doing it because I believe it's my duty as a citizen to stick my neck out so those who don't care can call me an idiot, because if nobody stands up then how will anyone ever know there are folks who object?

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From:phaetonschariot
Date:October 1st, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
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I was sort of dismayed when I got to the one at the Copthorne to see the kind of people who were making up a lot of the group - even if I rather agree with the sentiments, people calling for the downfall of capitalism makes the whole thing easy to ignore when there are also people there who make really good copy, like the girl we met from Kaiapoi whose mother was going to be left with $1000 to get a new house with the government offer. And it's the anti-capitalists that are noisy and most confident and bolshy because they've done it before, so the people who came out for their first protest because they can't see any other way don't actually have much of a shot of representing their views.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. I think protest has been successfully suppressed in this country since the 1980s, to the point where only the really staunch have kept it up. It's left us with a small group of hardcore protestors, and it's only now when things are starting to get desperate for people that some new people are starting to turn up for them. They then get put off or intimidated by the hardcore. There were definitely people there yesterday who I felt did not speak for me, but I figure in a broad sense we all agree on this issue so I will back them even if their message style is not to my taste.

My hope is that the newer people won't be put off and will continue to stand up, resulting in a normalisation of protest that encourages more people to participate. May be a forlorn hope but this is the first time since the early 90s that I've felt it's even possible.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 1st, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
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in terms of "did not speak for me" , yeah deliberately going down to the police station and yelling taunts and abuse at them for 15 minutes or whatever, and then being surprised when they didn't want protestors mixing and mingling with the internationals? that part of it made me pretty pissed off. and I would be very reluctant to participate in another. the whole thing seemed designed to incite conflict, and that is not what i bought into. no wonder nobody turns up. i nearly didn;t go because i hated the idea of it being one of those groups, decided it was a silly fear, and lo and behold I'm walking with a bunch of arseholes. way to go.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
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The only way to change the culture of protest in this country from only hardcore people with a bone to pick to a more measured approach that folks actually listen to is to turn up and be the measured ones. It's been left to those guys for so long with no support from anyone else that they've developed their own culture of being noisy and inciting conflict out of necessity - it's not as if anyone's listened to reason either, you know? And they are angry and I don't blame them. I'm angry too.

Bottom line for me is to be the change I want to see. I don't chant, I don't shout abuse - but I'm there because someone has to be or it'll only be the abuse-shouters.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
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which is why I stayed, and actually told one of them he should move his bike that he had chucked on the ground and let the cars through on that one lane.

maybe they got no support from everyone else over the years because they're annoying pricks.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps, although I think it's more likely that the only ones left protesting are the annoying pricks for other reasons related to the complete lack of support for protest over the last 30 years. It's even possible they weren't annoying pricks until they were the only ones left.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
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that is also possible and does occur to me also.

there was a definite air of "woohoo finally get to release some steam and shout about what is really pissing me off".

another reason I went along was the thought that hey there's lots of other people who sympathise in general, and the more who turn up then the more who feel comfortable joining in.


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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
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It seems our thought processes are very similar. ;-)

In other news, you around this aftenoon? I have a Thing to drop off to you.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
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oh yes, i have now risen from my scratching pit, and made my ascension through the initial rituals of emergence, but must next make a run for the shops.

definitely back by 2, and quite possibly rather earlier.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC)
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its only fags and veges!

kinda like the protest :-p
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Hehe I also just procured vegies in my patchouli-stinking reusable bags.

I will eat and then come see you.
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From:rynhaiiro
Date:October 2nd, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
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I wish I could 'like' this.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
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The response from the French was interesting - they seemed to mostly support us and they made a point of reading our signs.

I was kind of embarrassed - France has a long history of resistance and protests there generally have large turnouts - us kiwis just don't do it with the style they do, but I'm still glad they saw we do actually do it.
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From:dianavilliers
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, maybe I should wear work clothes next time - if there is a next time - instead of my weekend uniform of cargo pants and polar fleece. It was good to actually meet you in person though.


Edited at 2011-10-01 10:05 pm (UTC)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
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You too. ;-)

I was also in cargo pants and polar fleece - it's standard kiwi-wear on the weekends I think, so we looked like standard kiwis on the weekend. But I think a slightly more upmarket style of dress would be interesting to adopt, just to see how it affects the overall impact.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 2nd, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
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I suspect they'll be more to protest about when I'm back in New Zealand. But after seeing the effect of appearance on people external to protests, I'm probably going to wear a suit. (Which is better than what I actually wear to work!)
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From:t_c_da
Date:October 1st, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
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On another topic, although not totally unrelated, you might also want to give this a bit of profile...

I've already signed, by the way.
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From:grist
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:50 pm (UTC)
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Definitely with you on the chanting. I think it actually worked against us in some ways. Especially with the older generation. I saw one old lady walking down Willis St giving us the finger and hugging the cops. She had no clue at all what we were protesting, just a bunch of noisy hippies blocking the street.

The more I think about it the more I think the cops actually 'helped' with the traffic to get us out of the way as quickly as possible.

One thing I wish we'd had that could have helped was concise handouts we could have passed to onlookers explaining what we were about.

It still might be useful to make some of these up to help spread the word.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 1st, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
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Yes, you're right. I was kind of assuming the organisers would have these but I guess if we want our voice heard the best bet to be sure is to do it ourselves.
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:October 2nd, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
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I think the combination of chants and handouts would be effective. But possibly put the appropriate chants on a handout first... when people start coming up with chants on the spot, they can often be incendiary rather than containing a point or being funny.

Without chants it's easy to ignore a big crowd of people.

On the other hand, I went to a school where we were forced to chant for our rugby team. And I hated that.
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From:rynhaiiro
Date:October 2nd, 2011 12:56 pm (UTC)
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They did have some fliers with chants on them. Some people did make up their own... The main thing about chanting that I don't like is when people start swearing and it can make the whole group look bad. Just gotta try and yell "stop" a top of the "fuck!"s
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 2nd, 2011 06:09 am (UTC)
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Also, protesters maybe don't realise that by refusing to tell the police which route they want to take, despite it being offered that they would stop traffic for the marchers at relevant intersections, basically creates a low grade non-threatening practice session for crowd prediction and management tactics in a real life situation. Nice one oh ye anarchists, free police training sessions here! Maybe it cuts both ways.

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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2011 06:13 am (UTC)
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That anarchist label gets bandied about a lot. I wonder how many of those there yesterday, or those participating in #OccupyWallStreet for that matter, are actually anarchists.

I know I'm not. Does objecting to the way our government is currently working automatically make one an anarchist?

Other than that, yeah. More interesting for the cops than busting people smoking pot in the fanzone anyway.
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From:vernacularity
Date:October 2nd, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
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no, you are right, it is maybe too easy as a label. I guess I was adding the generally punk flavour of a lot of the style of dress, and the slogans, though perhaps also "anarchic" as a general behavioural adjective rather than as a political term would be closer to it.

many of those people look and behave like i did at around the same age.
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From:rynhaiiro
Date:October 2nd, 2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
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The people who have less to lose will always be greater in numbers. I agree about the dressing well thing. I generally try to downplay the feral-hippie. Urgh I remember someone shouting at us to 'get a job'.

I think you should be a public speaker too. That would be epic. Again I was too scared to jump up and talk...

I was happy to see a lot of friends there... The ones who looked normal, even!

What was that website that you mentioned about the occupy NZ movement?
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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
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I don't think there's an occupyNZ movement happening as such, but the site where a bunch of likeminded NZers are discussing things related is WhatIsThePlan.org.

It's a global site and you kind of have to hunt around to find the Kiwis. I think they're mostly in the Oceania section.

(studying this site atm for my degree - it's very interesting)

Edited at 2011-10-02 05:18 pm (UTC)
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 4th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the link!

There are now arrangements for Occupy Dunedin, Christchurch, and a second Auckland event.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 4th, 2011 07:51 am (UTC)
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Wondering where Wellington is in all this. I know there are anons here..
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