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  • Henry Broadbent

Pōneke. Protest!

Written and photgraphed by HENRY BROADBENT (HE/HIM)

Tino Rangatiratanga and the trans flag fly proudly opposite Tākina

OPINION: On Saturday the 18th of May, Inflection Point, which identifies itself as “a group for middle NZ that has become ‘The oppressed majority’”, hosted an event at Wellington's Tākina convention centre. The event, titled ‘Unsilenced: Middle New Zealand on Ideology’, was attended by a delightful collection of virulent anti-trans campaigners, including the frothingly homophobic culture war ‘apostle’ Brian Tamaki, celebrity bigot ‘Posie Parker’ (via video-link), Tanya Unkovich, a current MP for NZF, and Simon O’Conner, a former MP for National. 

Protests cut shapes on the Te Papa forecourt

But that event has got enough oxygen already and, based on its estimated audience size (~200 people), further discussing it with Salient readership would increase its reach by more than a factor of 10. If you’re truly dying to know more, Joel MacManus, of Spinoff fame, has written a detailed (if stinky) runthrough.

Anyways! Across the street far more interesting things were going on, amid a significantly larger crowd. 

Queer Endurance Defiance and the Pōneke Anti-Fascist Coalition collectively mobilised in response, and Wellington showed up (with a way cooler title, too: ‘Trans Community Defence!’). Saturday’s emcee, Tris, explained to Salient that the aim of the protest was not to disrupt the event, but to make a show of support for the trans community. Knowing an event like that is on could make people feel unsafe—Saturday’s rally aimed to display that Wellington is an inclusive city; a city that will stand up and defend trans and queer rights. 

A protester holds a placard

While Tamaki and friends sat in the (stinky) darkness swapping conspiracy theories, the sun shone down on a crowd of dancing, colourfully dressed protestors. The protest, though provoked, was celebratory—an expression of queer joy and solidarity, defiant in the face of intolerance. Amidst the ABBA was a series of kōreo, from a range of speakers. Reflecting on the march, an organiser from Pōneke Anti-Fascist Coalition told Salient:

"Wellington showed, once again, that we won’t let hate run rampant in our city. It was incredibly humbling to see so many queer people and our allies, young and old, stand in the wind to show support for eachother. Not only was it a wonderful reminder for those transphobic conspiracy theorist grifters that they can never spew their hate without pushback in our city; it was a reminder of the love we have for each other."

Vixen Temple—activist and member of Fired Up Stilettos—spoke at the protest about bodily autonomy, and later sat down with Salient for a chat about the protest. She described a strong sense of hope and optimism at the rally, and joy in seeing “so many people show up: their power, and their mana, and their passion, and their authenticity.” She encourages people to head along to similar protests—and to keep showing up:

“You really see people who you've constantly been told are bad or this or that, just living their authentic lives. Being unapologetically gay, or a sex worker, or trans, or having an abortion—whatever it is, whatever rights are being attacked. It's just really powerful to be surrounded by people that are so unafraid to show up and say: I deserve rights. I'm a human being, I deserve love. I deserve bodily autonomy, and I deserve self sovereignty.”

But Wait, There’s More!

Protestors rally near Lambton Quay

Student's and academics protest Israel's scholasticide and genocide in Gaza

Last Saturday’s protest was one of many actions occurring in the city. The day prior, Student Justice for Palestine collaborated with academic staff on a protest in the Hub courtyard. Less than an hour after the Tākina rally, Aotearoa for Tino Rangatiratanga held a protest outside the Old Bank Arcade, on Lambton. The previous morning, at 7:15, they held their weekly protest at the Hill Street Bridge, a high-visibility action, greeting the day's incoming commuter traffic with an overpass populated by Palestinian flags. 

Protestors wave Palestinian flags on Hill Street

Meghana Amarnath, an organiser, told Salient “we protest because we as a community have the shared vision of a better world. We understand that this world will not be created by our so-called leaders as they are driven by capitalistic greed in a settler colonial state that is called NZ. We understand that we need to raise awareness, build community and demand this better world that we want to live in. We might be protesting for Palestine, but really the struggle is beyond that … all decolonial struggles are driven by the fight against a world driven by economic gain and white supremacy. It’s for the liberation of all oppressed people”. 

Unions Wellington present their submission to the city councillors

For the civic-minded among us, Unions Wellington last Thursday presented their submission to the Council for keeping the airport shares public, as part of their Keep the Airport Ours campaign. About thirty people crammed into a series of elevators, and then the chambers, hoisting banners and wearing ‘Keep the Airport Ours’ t-shirts. They were there, on a rainy Thursday, to support three speakers, who together made a strong case against the privatisation of a key public asset. Sabina, from Unions Wellington, gave a speech stressing the airport’s status as public infrastructure, “not simply an investment for the council's portfolio”. Her speech was followed by Nicola Campbell from 350 Aotearoa, and Craig Renney from NZCTU, who made compelling environmental and economic arguments, respectively. 

These are just the ones this harried reporter/photographer/subeditor could make it to. The list of those he did not is larger. The point of this is to gently encourage you, dear reader, to seek out similar actions, during the uni break and beyond. A big march is a vital and important statement, but the act of community building really takes place at smaller events like those above. Those in power seek to sow fear and division. Reject this, and get to know your city. Also, activists are lovely! Not only will they not bite, they will welcome you with open arms—it is their kaupapa. Before you know it, you might be one. 


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