Denigrating protests is not new

by Daphna Whitmore

The End the Mandates protest at parliament is now in its third week. Not one parliamentarian has listened to the concerns of the thousands of people who have joined the demonstration.

Trevor Mallard and the Prime Minister have led the way in rejecting these citizens. Mallard’s anti-people actions – dousing them with water, floodlights and round-the-clock loud music – was not criticised by the Prime Minister. Nor his attempts to muzzle the press. Nor the Deputy Leader of the House Michael Woods calling the people “a river of filth”.

It is common for the state and its police to denigrate and disparage protesters. In the end when a protest is won, history is rewritten and the cause is recognised, and the determination of the people who fought is acknowledged.

A Curia survey commissioned by The Platform found that around a quarter of the protesters are vaccinated. Clearly the opposition to vaccine mandates goes beyond people who are unvaccinated. Some 40 percent of the protesters had voted Labour or the Greens at the last election. Many are middle aged, a majority are female, a significant number are Maori, and many are from provincial cities.

It is not only the government dehumanising the protesters, but also many on the left. Protesters have been repeatedly called dehumanising terms: “feral” “motley crew of lumpenproletariats”, “Idiots”, “morons”. This slandering is coming from people on the left who say they abhor “othering”. It turns out they are hypocrites. The left detractors have kept up a stream of vitriol, exaggerating the sightings of a handful of rightist extremists while ignoring the many hundreds of working class people making a stand. They have denigrated the protest as a whole and sided with the state. Some have called for the state to get stuck in. Some are even urging the use of the military.

There is a conspiracy element among the left. The conspiracists are seldom out of their pajamas or far from their keyboards and they fancy themselves as Nazi hunters. They are disconnected from reality and real people. They claim the protest is a white supremacist movement, which is risible. Their concocted theory will need some more wild connecting of dots to account for the centre-left voting, middle aged women and Maori who comprise the majority of the protest. They’ll probably not let facts get in the way. They steadfastly ignore what the protesters are saying because it doesn’t fit their fantasy.

The protest group representatives have said they have been shocked by allegations of violent and antisocial behaviour. They say these actions are by “a number of individuals who do not appear to be associated with the protest”. The protest organisers have said: “Throughout, we have continually sought to work with police to identify individuals involved in any criminal acts and maintain a safe and peaceful environment. We are ever-mindful that approximately 15 percent of protesters present are either children or aged over 60, and 55 percent are women.”

The protesters point to emerging evidence of “potential external involvement” in placing agitators among the protest. “There are some hotheads, as with any cause, they come from out and about and are not the actual, dedicated protesters.” They have also said that the person who sprayed faecal matter at police was not known to protestors. “He intentionally hid behind a protestor as he sprayed the police, wore a ski mask and fled immediately.” The police have declined the protest organisers’ request for pictures from surveillance footage to help them determine if the person is still at the site. 

Never mind the detractors. For every person at parliament occupying the lawn there are many more who share their concerns about the erosion of civil rights.

Police eye gauge a protester


Below is an account by David Marsh an eyewitness to the confrontation with the police in the first week of the protest.

This is what he saw:

I am so shocked and stunned with the way the NZ Police treated people at parliament today. It seems that the protestors have kept peaceful all along (I know there had been a bit of name calling but nothing violent) – then the speaker of the house ordered Police to get rid of the protestors and it suddenly became very violent. I saw photos of Trevor Mallard on a veranda seeming to enjoy what was going on.

The live stream I saw this morning showed nothing short of assault and brutality on many people – Men, Women and Children. It was absolutely shocking – people have broken bones, been kicked, punched, dragged along the concrete – you name it and the mainstream media are trying to commend the police on how they handled it.

My wife and I decided to go in to Parliament and show some support and try to work out what was going on. To be honest it was absolutely disgusting, intimidating and shocking. Hundreds of police with Masks, Gloves, handcuffs, Tasers, battens, pepper Spray – you name it. They were all lined up and more and more coming in and marching around and showing they were ready to launch at any time on the protestors. They had just been pepper spraying just before we arrived. A lot of the police were not sworn officers they were young people from the police college that had not even graduated and looked uncomfortable and way out of their depth. A lot of them actually looked quite upset. I noticed a lot of the young police got emotional when the National Anthem and other things were sung as they knew what they were doing was not right – they were following orders and probably wondering what type of organisation they had joined.

There was constant tension in the air and the threat that the police were going to launch another assault on the peaceful people that were singing and just wanted to talk to the political leaders about their concerns. There was lots of posturing from the Police – senior Police would come along and wisper in the ear of the other police – just constant tension where you did not feel safe. So much for maintaining health and safety – they had even padlocked key exit gates.

I was feeling quite uncomfortable and approached a senior looking police officer and asked to know my rights. I wanted to know what laws had been broken, what my rights were etc. He just laughed at me and told me to go to the Police station during normal business hours to ask those questions. They all looked aggressive and none of them wanted to talk – they just stood there with their large masks on. I asked why they all of the Police were all on the other side of the fence and pointing at us with no one on our side – I said we should have police available to let us know our rights etc. Again he laughed. He did not answer any of my questions, appeared out of his depth and did not offer to get any of the other 400 or so police officers to answer any of the questions – he was totally dismissive and made it clear he did not care. I also asked him what the protestors had done to turn this into a non peaceful event and he laughed at that too. he seemed to have a blank stare and just not care.

Today what I saw was the most disgusting abuse of power and total focus on Police pleasing the political leaders and protecting them from peaceful people wanting to have free speech.

What I saw on live stream shocked me then to go and be there and see the behavior for myself was absolutely disgusting and left me wondering how things have got so bad so fast with our Government and I am seeing more and more that we have been turned into a police state. I hope and pray that things improve soon.


  1. These occupiers seem the children and grandchildren of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, and also citizens of the digital world like most of us.

    40 years of neo liberal hegemony and post modernist philosophy where anything can mean anything is a long way from Mao’s “seek truth from the facts”. Monetarist individualism and contracting out and managerialism has seen the decline of collectivism and the numbers of people that have ever been in a working class collective.

    If there is no clear class position from a lengthy protest what do you call it? I guess this “cross class” type of action including the alienated, discarded, precarious workers, issue driven, petit bourgeoisie, anti vaccination individuals, well off donors, had a precursor with the Occupy Movement. Generalised action with many targets and little distinct class focus in terms of identifying the perennial main enemy–capital, finance capital and imperialist powers.

    In the short term in AO/NZ the neo liberal state needs to be rolled back via an urgent community organised campaign and action and new gen voters who will be superior in numbers from 2023 onwards.

    I don’t support this particular extended occupation because it undermines the public health campaign on COVID–but I certainly don’t like cops or state forces either. Nearly every action (effective ones particularly) I have been on since the 70s has seen cops involved on behalf of employers or the state. Kept my baton dented helmet for years after the final Springbok test, and still shudder remembering cops breaking workers sternums with batons on purpose as they linked arms at Astley Tanneries picket, New Lynn Auckland in early 90s. And through the 00s they always turn up with in minutes if an employer requests or if it is an iwi action.

    I know a couple of people from the Far North where I am based, who are in Wellington, and they are of the “Sovereign citizen” bent. And they are frankly a pain, and on the edge of sanity from my view, they have turned up for 15 years at political events and occupations that others have organised and do their best to f**k things up and spread disunity. So if this lot turn into young Lenins it will be the surprise of the millenium.

  2. It is commendable that somebody has tried to take a more accurate handle on the composition of the protest by doing some research. Though I wonder what can be made of a sample of 312? Better than nothing of course but I’m not sure how truly indicative it is.

    I wish you would offer a bit more precision in your criticism of those on the Left who oppose the protest. Your vagueness as to who exactly is advocating the negative views you mention, runs the ironic risk of presenting the sort of strawman/bogeyman you claim is being perpetrated by these unnamed Lefties in relation to the protest in itself.

    I consider myself to be within the camp of those on the Left who oppose the protest. However I do not think I have fallen for the mainstream media narrative regarding it. I have been at too many protests in the past that have been mins-represented, to ever fall for their bullshit. I do not take a stance of supporting the cops, ACAB, after all. There may be agent provocateur amongst the crowd, though I imagine the more off putting behaviours you cite are the work of genuine protestors. Protests are unruly, messy affairs with fluctuating participation, that’s inherent in the nature of all protests.

    I also accept that the number of self-identifying fascists in attendance has been miniscule. I find it slightly odd by the way, that you juxtapose the latter with “the hundreds of working class people making a stand” as if working class people are intrinsically incapable of subscribing to various Right-wing and reactionary strands of thought. Again, it is somewhat ironic that you don’t give them credit for coming up with bad ideas by themselves. It would seem more realistic to admit that they seem to have done that in this instance. I do not see them as “idiots” or “feral” etc. They are just folks who in the main appear to have reached the wrong conclusions. It’s because I respect their ability to think and act on their own volition, that I hope they would be attracted to a Left Wing alternative. To be clear, I mean one that goes beyond the Liberal Left establishment narrative or that of the Right. The fault lies in part in not developing and propagating such a viable Left alternative.

    • The left in NZ is small enough to know who is using those terms. I didn’t want to get bogged down naming individuals and I think it makes it harder to back down from a position when cornered in that way.

      You are right about the formulation about the working class, it was loose and I should have made it more clear. Of course workers can take reactionary positions and come to them on their own. However, they often do have good instincts, they are more grounded and more likely to see through BS than the laptop left which is so busy commentating from a distance, twisting and distorting what is happening at the protest.

  3. Yes, it doesn’t hurt to seek truth from facts and here’s one other idea for our government. In no way should coercive measures be taken to settle ideological questions or questions involving the distinction between right and wrong among the people. All attempts to use administrative orders or coercive measures to settle ideological questions or questions of right and wrong are not only ineffective but harmful. We cannot abolish religion by administrative order or force people not to believe in it. We cannot compel people to give up idealism, any more than we can force them to embrace Marxism. The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, criticism, persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression. To be able to carry on their production and studies effectively and to lead their lives in peace and order, the people want their government and those in charge of production and of cultural and educational organizations to issue appropriate administrative regulations of an obligatory nature. It is common sense that without them the maintenance of public order would be impossible. Administrative regulations and the method of persuasion and education complement each other in resolving contradictions among the people. In fact, administrative regulations for the maintenance of public order must be accompanied by persuasion and education, for in many cases regulations alone will not work.

  4. Why is this draconian behavior going on in the same countries which are embracing transgenderism? Is it all due to the fact that we are facing collapse on a mass scale, and the ruling elites are terrified of what might happen?

    I have been pro-vaccine, pro-covid protocol, but I am getting very suspicious of both the origins and the use the STATE is making of covid. For all their pushing of vaccination after vaccination, they are not making it easy for people to receive vaccines and they are unwilling to share the vaccines with poor countries. Perhaps the right-wingers had a sense that something was very wrong with this entire scenario; often right-wingers have the correct sense that something is amiss, they just usually fail in their analyses.

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