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So we had the National Māori Action Day protest today.
The protests took place across the North Island this morning and they were big, impressively so.
There were an estimated 300 cars at the Auckland protest, there were about 50 on the Southern Motorway- which created a 3km backlog- and there were over 100 people at each of the Hamilton, Whakatane, Rotorua, Tokoroa, Taupo and Palmerston North gatherings.
That is impressive, those numbers. Because from what I can see, those people were activated by the Māori Party in about 24 hours.
If I'm not mistaken, they put up their social media posts yesterday, it got into the news yesterday- and all of those hundreds of people turned up to protest today at 7am.
Regardless of whether you agree with the Māori Party and what they advocate for or not, it is pretty impressive that they managed to get that many people together in such a short space of time.
That tells you two things, I reckon.
One is that there's a lot of emotion out there about what the Government is planning to do in the race relations area. Those protests, when you think about it, were actually about nothing- but also about everything.
There wasn't just one thing that those people got out to protest about. Nothing has actually happened. If you listen to the number of things people were protesting over, it was a smorgasbord of reasons why they were out there.
The promise of the Government doing anything in the race relations area got those people emotional enough to go out.
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- Nationwide protests: All you need to know- locations, times and how to avoid delays
- Protestors expecting to cause gridlock and block highways to share their message
Secondly, if the Māori Party can activate that many people when nothing has happened in only 24 hours, imagine what they can do when something actually does happen.
For example, when ACT's Treaty principles bill goes to Parliament. That bill has the potential to trigger a referendum- if it actually gets passed through Parliament.
There's no evidence that suggests this will happen, but imagine how big the protests could be based on what we saw today.
I know that not everybody takes the Māori Party seriously, because they're all about the spectacle. A lot of the stunts that they pull are clearly meaningless and make themselves look foolish to a lot of people.
But do not underestimate them. Because they are dominating the conversation on the first day of Parliament.
We aren't talking about the new Government sitting in Parliament for the first time, we're talking about the Māori Party today.
And I suspect this will be the first of many days where they will dominate over the next three years.
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