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. "
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?