Protesting the GCSB

Thousands of people in 11 different centres turned out to protest the extension of the power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). That the protests drew such good numbers even though the demonstrations were called at short notice and were, in many centres, virtually unadvertised, is a sign of the depth of opposition.

In Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland), at least 2500 people attended an energetic rally. It was bigger than expected, and had a radical edge. The biggest organised contingent was the Green Party followed by the Labour Party and Mana. There were a few union banners from the National Distribution Union (now First Union) and the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) – but not contingents. Kim Dotcom, John Minto, and Mike Treen were the best of the speakers. However, sadly, Dotcom and Minto carried the left nationalist line that National are just puppets of the USA – the reality is that John Key doesn’t need the USA to tell him to take our civil liberties away. Our ruling class is as cynical and corrupt as the USA’s. Dotcom did draw connections with the US drone wars in the Middle East and the heroic efforts of whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden who revealed the staggering extent of the Prism spy system. Minto, representing Mana, called for the disbanding of the GCSB, which made a good contrast to the Greens, who claimed this was “not a left or right issue” and Labour, who called for an inquiry.

In Poneke (Wellington), around 1500-2000 people marched today in the largest demonstration in several years. The march was lively, and the anger and disgust was palpable. The speakers, outside Parliament, varied – there was the normal gaggle of opposition MPs promising “we will handle everything. You can all go home . . . but don’t forget to vote”. Valerie Morse, one of the Operation 8 victims whose life is still being shaken by the after effects of the Terror Raids, spoke at length about the dangers of giving free rein to the state to surveil and spy on citizens. Helen Kelly connected these attacks on privacy to the attacks on unionists, and the selling out of NZ law to corporations such as Warner Brothers during the Actors Equity/Hobbit dispute. Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati, of Mana Newtown, spoke about the other great concern relating to the loss of sovereignty, the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which would allow companies to sue the government over any lost potential earnings due to changes in government policy. This rally tapped into a vein of deep anger in Wellingtonians. It can only be hoped that they ignore the advice of the politicians and continue to bring that anger to the fore in opposing harmful policy such as the changes to the ERA legislation and the attacks on the already weak Environmental Protection Act.
On the Indymedia website, Mana Party member Danyl Stripe, of Otautahi (Christchurch), wrote that “an impassioned rally of about 500 people” gathered in the Square. Green MP Stefan Browning was MC. Speakers included Murray Horton, of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA), Robert Hunt, of the Internet Service Providers Association of NZ, Moana Cole, of Catholic Worker, and Ruth Dyson, of the Labour Party, who promised Labour would repeal both the GCSB Bills if they become the government in 2014. A spirited open mic session followed, finished up by former Environment Canterbury councillor Rik Tindall, who was part of the council when the National government dismissed the elected representatives and took over environmental resource management in the region. Rik celebrated the revolutionary power of using digital technology to share information, network independently, and organise responsively, pointing to precedents like the Arab Spring, the Indignados in Spain, and Occupy movements internationally. Stripe concludes “With a mixture of familiar veteran activists and plenty of new faces, it was all in all an inspiring rally”.

In Otepoti (Dunedin), some 500 gathered for a “funeral for privacy”. An incredibly long line-up of speakers – at least fourteen – meant the rally lasted for two and a-half hours, with numbers dwindling after the first hour. Organisers included Occupy activists Michelle Helliwell and Keiran Freeman, and activist and ‘angry nana’ Viv Adams. They shared the stage with Labour MP Clare Curran and the city mayor – who was not a big fan of the Occupy movement. Speakers included academics, activists, Jen Wilson, of Mana, and International Socialists Organisation member Brian Roper. Brian’s speech was the standout – he poured scorn on the idea that it was neither a left or right issue – spy agencies are used by the right against the left, he said, against union activists, feminist activists, and environmentalists.

The International Socialist Organisation is an activist organisation. We want to see working people having a taste of power in the streets and in workplaces. We had 23 members at the demos and everywhere our magazine Socialist Review was welcome. We sold about 110 across the country.