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The very loud minority – inside the TPPA protests

Chaos reigned, if only briefly, over the Auckland CBD today. Don Rowe moves through a world of swirling ideology and takes an exhilirating walk down Queen Street with a few thousand other people. 

“You’re a very loud minority!” sneered a solitary businessman in an off-pink dress shirt. A few people turned their heads, someone called the guy a “fucken dickhead”, and the remaining several thousand protesters continued their march down Queen Street.

Earlier, the same ‘loud minority’ had shut down major intersections around the city, a move Matthew Hooton characterised as “an act of war”, classifying former Green MP Sue Bradford and other high profile protesters as enemies of the state by default.

TPP clown

On the intersection of Federal Street and Victoria Street West, a music festival was in full swing between the traffic lights. Like a tiny Woodstock, it featured a dancing flower-clown, a man in monk robes, a barefoot guitarist and several street people who were sharing an iced tea. An old woman sat in a camping chair at dead centre. The Aotearoa Socialists were even giving away free water – socialism in action. “84% of the workers at SkyCity say no to the TPP,” yelled their spokesperson over the loudspeaker, citing nothing at all to support the number but scoring points for enthusiasm.

Further down Federal Street, a crowd thronged in front of the SkyCity Convention Centre. A man in a camouflage mask walked his red-nosed pitbull through the chanting mass of protesters. He moved past a shirtless Storm Trooper, who stood on a fence in three-quarter pants, banging on a drum. Two men in Anonymous masks shared a hongi, perhaps the first of its type. A thick human wall of police in high-viz blocked the entrance, fully three or four ranks deep.

Opposite, some tourists took photos of the Sky Tower.

In Aotea Square, the heart of the beast, Leigh Hart interviewed protesters while enjoying a kebab, switching his grip between microphone and wrap as necessary.

“What does this all mean to you, boys?” he asked, wide eyed and nodding as usual.

“Fuck the fucking TPPA, fuck John Keys, fuck the Government.”

“Right, right.”

I tried my hand at an interview too, yarning to Max Brown, an English ex-pat with a firm stance on the TPP.

“Both of my grandfathers fought in the Second World War,” he said. “One from Britain and one from here. This is exactly the kind of fascism they fought against. They’d be disgusted by this. We have to fight too.”

Our chat was interrupted by an old boy who wouldn’t give his name but who did assure me that the New Zealand public would be some of the first to go under the population purges that the ruling elite have in store.

“This and the flag change are all part of the plan,” he said, sounding a bit like a Facebook post.

He wasn’t the only paranoid protester. I asked a guy with a Go-Pro strapped to his head what the deal was.

“Police brutality, bro! If anyone tries to take me out it’ll all be on here,” he said with a grin, gesticulating at the bobbing camera. Like a doomsday prepper, he seemed to subconsciously want the shit to hit the fan.

jk dilly

Copies of socialist rag The Militant were selling for $1.50, too much for this writer, but I did score a copy of the 115th edition of Class Struggle for free, just as the march began under Hone Harawira’s direction. He wore an outrigger racing t-shirt and held a megaphone – a real man of the people.

The crowd chanted as it moved down Queen Street. “T-P-P-A, taking people’s power away!” and “When workers rights are under attack, stand up, fight back”.

At the head of the march was a kapa haka group, fiercely adorned with ta moko and moving to the call of a long wooden pūkaea. They paused at every intersection to issue a challenge, wielding their taiaha and performing haka like kamate kamate and tika tonu.

“Chur, hearty eh my bro?” came from more than one young Māori on the sidelines, seeing, maybe for the first time, real Māoritanga in the heart of commercial New Zealand.

Behind the kapa haka group came a diverse cross section of society, packed shoulder to shoulder but moving peacefully. Young Māori from Northland brushed against bearded hipsters from New North Road. A monk helped an old woman up the curb. A group of socialists yelled something about the end of capitalism and some Spanish girls yelled something in Spanish. Fern fronds rose above the crowd, thick and green and nothing like the one Key hopes to stamp on the flag.

Like any good protest march, there were signs. One displayed an anatomically correct pair of testicles painted with the old red, white and blue. Another compared the Prime Minister with a dildo.

The best of them all, though, just said FUCK OFF.

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