Act Party candidate Stephen Berry, speaking at the Free Speech protest. Behind him is a banner for the UK based Football Lads Alliance, a self-proclaimed anti-extremist group that has been linked to the UK far right. (Photo: Alex Braae)

What did the Free Speech protestors actually have to say?

Many of the attendees at a protest against Auckland Council banning Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux feel they get a raw deal from media. So, here’s exactly what they said.

The events that led to the protest are already well covered. Auckland mayor Phil Goff stepped in to prevent two Canadian speakers from using Council venues, because such venues “shouldn’t be used to stir up ethnic or religious tensions.” Concerns had earlier been lodged by the NZ Federation of Islam Association about the tour, along with other groups. That in turn sparked outrage, and a protest was organised against the decision, along with the Free Speech Coalition raising $50,000 to fund a court action against Goff with the aim of reinstating Southern and Molyneux’s venue bookings.

It wasn’t actually the largest demonstration at Auckland’s Aotea Square on Saturday. That honour went to Falun Gong, who demonstrate regularly against the Chinese government. But it was certainly the most contentious. And while the protest was billed as a free speech event, the majority of the signs being held were about a British alt-right figure called Tommy Robinson, currently in prison after being convicted of contempt of court charges – charges that some of his supporters believe are politically motivated. Many of the speeches veered sharply away from free speech issues, to focus instead on warning against Sharia law, which the speakers said was taking hold in Britain.

And most of all, the protesters spoke of being misrepresented in the media, a theme which has been a constant in this short episode. Therefore I have decided to publish simply what people had to say, and present it below without comment so as to avoid such accusations.

“We’re here to fight for our rights being overtaken by minorities. Phil Goff sold out on his constituency.” – Glen, who didn’t give a last name.

“It’s good to see other anti-communists here.” – A man in his 20s, pointing at the Falun Gong demonstrators.

“No to Sharia, wake up NZ. That’s the best sign here.” – A man with a British accent.

“I think the left wing media are just not telling us the truth. I can’t bear to watch TVNZ, or read The Horrid, The Herald, because I just do not believe anything they say. They’re turning people’s heads, and you’ve got to go on to the internet to get balanced news. Everything is one sides, anyone speaks about freedom of speech gets called a racist, or a fascist. I’m certainly not a racist or a fascist. But uncontrolled immigration is changing society, and they never asked anyone.” – Mary, who used to live in Britain and Holland.

“Islam instructs its members to hate atheists more than Christians.” – Christopher Newman, from The First Nation Association of New Zealand, during his speech to the crowd. In an interview, he added “Sharia is just a very good entry point for a lot of people. The Sharia problem is linked in with a lot of Marxist activism – the two are united structurally and ideologically. They’re working together, and they have a hatred of Western society.” 

One of the few signs at the protest that didn’t refer in some way to Tommy Robinson (Photo: Alex Braae)

“Look the thing about free speech is that we’ve all got that in common. We’ve got different reasons for it being in common. I don’t agree with the people who are speaking out against Islam. And the Tommy Robinson issue – that’s actually a contempt of court issue, and ACT supports the contempt of court process, so I’m not opposing that either, but if they’re all here for free speech, that’s all that really matters for me.” – Stephen Berry, ACT Party.

“Stefan Molyneux, I haven’t followed so much, because his videos are about two or three hours long. But Lauren Southern, she does not say the things that people accuse her of. Labels such as Nazism, and Hitler ideology and fascism. They’re words that for me – I grew up in a strongly respectful to veterans family. I’m going to say it, there’s a sense of fascism growing on the left side of politics.” Elliot Ikilei, New Conservative deputy leader, discussing why he invoked figures like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela in his speech.

“This whole thing has nothing to do with free speech.” – A counter-protestor, who was involved in a heated argument with one of the demonstrators.

“Oh, you want to get ad-hominem? You’re getting ad-hominem.” – A protester’s response, later on in the rolling maul of the argument.

“That’s abysmal for a so-called journalist, to not know about such a huge subject. That’s indefensible on your part. I think when you want to do reporting, you really need to find out more about what’s going on before interviewing people. It’s very easy to google Tommy Robinson, and then you’ll learn.” – A woman who castigated me after I asked for her views on Tommy Robinson.

“Oh, you again.” – The same woman, when I walked past her later in the afternoon.

“Who are you with?” – A question from a man wearing a ‘Communism Kills’ t-shirt. I answered that I was from The Spinoff. “No, I don’t want to speak to you.”

One of the more frequently seen signs, about Tommy Robinson. (Photo: Alex Braae)

“Oh, Tommy Tommy! Tommy Tommy Tommy Tommy Robinson.” – A chant that broke out periodically during lulls.

“Tommy Robinson is a right of centre activist, who is trying to prevent the Islamification of Great Britain. Quite rightly. And I know it’s happening here, because basically everything that stems from Britain makes its way here, and you can see that in the oppression of speech.” – A former British army and police veteran.

“I’m here to get laid. I came here to find available and gullible women.” – A man called Douglas, who was wearing a suit and smoking a cigarillo.

“Legalise marijuana!” – Some dude shouting from a car that was stopped at the lights.

“Should’ve gone ice skating. It would have been way more fun for everyone.” – Mike, who was just passing through, looking wistfully at the carefree people on the rink in Aotea Square.

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