“Stop the War on the Poor!” Crashing National’s Party

A quarter of children in New Zealand live in poverty, and 10% are in extreme poverty, according to a new study. What will Christmas be like for them? What will the financial stress mean for families and whanau? This is a world away from National Party members’ and supporters’ lifestyles. Last weekend they held a Christmas bash at the Auckland Grammar Old Boys’ Pavilion. The name says it all – Auckland Action Against Poverty called a picket of this gathering of the rich, and the ISO was proud to support the demonstration. Raukawa Whenu Knight reports from the picket

After having spent three days on Waipapa Marae at the ISO hui a tau, trying to decide whether or not that the ISO was that “thing” I had been looking for, a contingent of members headed down to Auckland Boys’ Grammar to adhere to the cry from the AAAP “come join the picket line”.

The picket started on the small side, at just over a dozen people or so, but we were determined to make sure that anybody attending National’s Christmas party – hosted by John Key – knew exactly who they were voting for and how National’s policies are affecting us and our kids. And as one of the comrades had said at the hui “John Key should not be able to walk the streets without being heckled.”

The ISO joined the picket line with comrades from the AAAP , Mana, Socialist Aotearoa, Unite, and people from the community who just wanted to practice their democratic right to protest. Our numbers quickly swelled to about sixty. Sue Bradford from Mana and AAP led the protest to the party-goers, making sure they heard our messge. About  about thirty of us marched behind a giant pink banner that read “PARTY FOR THE RICH”, leaving the other half of our ranks to protest at the driveway entrance.

The Herald called us “angry” protesters, and they are right: we’re angry at the pro-rich policies of National that keep tens of thousands of children in poverty, and that demonise beneficiaries and solo mothers. We used banners, flags and a mass of angry protesters chanting to make sure that the party-goers could know the anger they generated. A crowd was gathering. Sue Bradford put the question on the megaphone: did any of them know what the benefit cuts meant for solo parents? Did any of them know how these cuts were affecting the lives of beneficiaries’ kids?

By now the police were on the scene.  After Key arrived and started his self-congratulatory speech, they moved to try and stamp out our free speech. First by pushing but as more and more of us saw what was happening we tried to protect our comrades. The police then escalated to elbows in the back, kicks to the shins, and even foot stomping.

The call went up to sit down and link arms which we did but a couple of police kept trying to provoke a confrontation, pushing through protesters or pressing on top of us. But we kept a disciplined order and held to our right to protest. With media now observing the police brutality was toned down – obviously they felt they couldn’t get too heavy handed with all the cameras and media around.

We resumed with the chanting and kicking up a fuss, making noise. And you could see that the National supporters inside were trying their best to pretend that we weren’t there, as they applauded John Keys every word and swirled wine in their big fancy wine glasses.

After Key’s speech we decided to wrap up our protest and moved away as a bloc. I raised the ISO flag high and all my comrades that we couldn’t find initially, gravitated toward it. It was at this time that I realized that none of us had brought any magazines with us! Got to remember the basics. We talked with members of AAP and others.

This was just one small example of the kind of resistance Key and National should expect in the coming year.