by Maria Peach
It was inspiring to be a part of the TPPA blockade at Sky-City on February 4th 2016. The numbers of those who turned up, from near and far, were more than I had expected. We gathered in Aotea square, from all walks of life and prepared for what may lay ahead. Real Choice, the organisers of the “Show Us Your Text” blockade of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Poneke, (Wellington) did an excellent job of ensuring protestors were well informed and also had legal aid available.
We marched on, in solidarity, with an estimated 10 00 protestors, heading down Queen Street and then towards Sky City. We chanted out loud with passion, to the people and power. Chanting as we went – “When worker’s rights are under attack, stand up fight back.” All around, there were banners and placards, with written words of contempt at some of the undemocratic decisions our current Government has made in the name of the people. We demanded an honouring of the Treaty, the end of deep sea oil drilling, the call for workers to unite against exploitation and the end of a corporate takeover via the TPPA.
As we drew near the entrance of the convention centre, we saw a sea of blue suits and yellow fluorescent vests. We gathered in strength and faced them front on. Despite the media hype of the blockade protest cultivating violence, we stood together, unmoved and unintimidated by police presence. After an hour or so, the strategic call came to divide into two groups and begin the blockade.
Our group headed to the corner of Federal and Wellesley Street, filling the intersection and blocking off the Queen Street access to Sky City. Mothers, fathers, young rangitahi and elders locked arms. This then transformed into a circle sitting on the ground and as we rallied our chants together, we could see on Hobson Street another roadblock forming. Cars were turning away and the gridlock had begun. By this point all intersections surrounding Skycity were occupied by protestors bringing the central city to a standstill.
A message was sent to join a group that had headed to the southern and western motorway intersection. By the time we had arrived, a small group of around 20 had formed a circle, successfully stopping traffic into the city. The police had prevented more of us joining and so a large number of protestors stood face to face, then sat on the ground. This was effective in preventing any flow of traffic aiming to leave the city. Protestors also made it to the main motorway itself, holding up traffic that was Harbour Bridge bound. They employed the tactic of sitting on the ground to maintain peace, but were heavily handled by those in blue.
The blockade was a huge success sending a message loud and clear to power. We do not want the TPPA. Whose streets? Our streets. Auckland Action Against Poverty, the organisation battling the neoliberal agenda on behalf of the people, contributed a significant number of well experienced and informed protestors to support this blockade, as did Real Choice who organised the civil disobedience. We showed how solidarity of a few, could achieve so much. After Thursday, One no longer needs to imagine the power of the people, they saw it shut down our largest city.
Photo credit: Marc Inzon