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I couldn’t believe it!
I finished up on my Saturday radio show, last week. Cycled home. Made some lunch. Refreshed the New Zealand Herald, and whaddaya know? It was like Trevor Mallard had been listening to us all morning.
The Speaker of the House was blasting protestors with Barry Manilow and the Macarena. Unbelievable. Apparently I didn’t make it clear enough in my editorial last week. I was JOKING when I suggested they hit protestors with silly music. I was joking. I never for a moment thought it would actually happen.
For me, that’s been one of the interesting little hypocrisies in this whole episode. On one hand, politicians wanted to take a moralistic high ground by refusing to meet with protestors. How dare anyone dignify them with a response?! Only the moralistic high ground apparently didn’t apply to the Speaker, his sprinklers, and his irritating playlist.
Trevor Mallard’s efforts can only have served to antagonise the protestors. And every bit of scorn and hate hurled upon them only reinforces their self-image. The Team of Five Million? Ha. This rabble, confused, misled, and deluded as they may be, felt well and truly left out of the Team of Five Million. They joined together to protest precisely because they felt like outsiders. They felt ostracised. Very little from the last ten days will have changed their minds.
Hindsight’s 20/20. I think politicians should have found a way to reach out to the protestors much sooner. It probably wouldn’t have done much to end the protest, but some of these people have been prepared to completely alienate themselves from friends and family and the majority of our society, to lose their jobs and livelihoods over their misguided beliefs. Refusing to meet them was hardly going to make them feel any worse.
Yes, there were terrible, hateful, threatening messages. As far as I’m concerned, anyone making death threats should have been arrested immediately. But in this morass of different grievances and complaints are some very reasonable and articulate concerns around extraordinary state mandates. Personally, I don’t know why any right-thinking person who was only protesting the mandates would choose to stay and be associated with someone making death threats. But the mandate issue is worthy of protest. I don’t agree with the protestors, but they do have a right to be heard.
I’m very aware that many of those who want to see the protestors rounded up and arrested, whatever it takes, are the same people who supported the Black Lives Matter protests during the Level 2 lockdowns. They were prepared to break Covid laws to protest Police brutality but are now advocating for a potentially brutal police response to a group breaking Covid laws.
They’re the same people who revelled in the ‘Team of Five Million’ and ‘Kindness’ messages, and the adoring international media coverage of New Zealand’s Covid-19 response. Have they actually looked at the crowd? I wonder what the headline in the New York Times would
be if a couple of kids were hurt in an almighty scuffle between Police and protestors on the steps of parliament.
I’m no tactician, but I wonder if the best way to manage the protest is to slowly pick away at it. Police should cordon all the nearby streets. They should stop all but authorised cars from entering the area. No one can bring in tents or sleeping bags. They should target the protest organisers and arrest them one-by-one. It may take days or weeks.
As with most of our Covid response, the rights and wellbeing of the majority should be prioritised. The protest should not have been allowed to grow to this size and should not be allowed to continue. Fundamentally though, when comparing an ongoing protest to the alternative, I am not convinced a potentially violent clash between protestors and Police is better for New Zealand.