Wellington says no to racism and fascism

At lunchtime today, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament to say no to racism. The event, organised by the Migrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, was a protest against the annual gathering of National Front fascists and a commemoration of the New Zealand land wars. It drew in scores of individuals as well as campaigners from a wide range of activist and political parties. The day began with a karakia from Mike Ross followed by speeches from Teanau Tuiono of the Polynesian Panthers, Golriz Ghahraman from the Green Party, Arama Rata, the Māori spokesperson for MARRC, and Karam Shaar, a Syrian refugee and student. The speeches emphasised the need for solidarity across all oppressed groups and the need for us to recognise that it is in fact the racists in suits, in the halls of power, that are more dangerous than these thugs of the National Front. Dr Rata emphasised the disgraceful anti-immigrant campaigns of the Labour Party and New Zealand First. Throughout the day, the Solidarity Brass Band provided an amazing soundtrack that ranged from Nga Iwi E, Bella Ciao to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

Following the speeches and music, word came that a small group of National Front members were coming onto parliament grounds. The group of protestors swiftly mobilized to block the entrance and encircle them. The fascist thugs looked angry and yet completely powerless as they were swamped by protesters shouting “Immigrants are Welcome, Racists are Not,” “Fascists go home!” and “Sexist, Racist, anti-gay, Fascist Bigots go away!” The fascists were not given a hearing. Their hate speech and incitement of violence towards women, LGBTI, immigrant and non-white communities was overwhelmed by the positive energy of the group and the chants of freedom and inclusivity.

Overall, there were no more than nine fascists present. Half of them were driven off back to the railway station by a group of around twenty protestors. Outside the station, an impromptu Haka was delivered by a bystander who then joined the protest in solidarity.  The other three or four fascists remained on the street outside parliament. Absurdly, they slowly walked up and down the street looking confused about what to do next. At each step of the way they were surrounded by hundreds of protesters chanting at them to go home. The police were out in significant numbers to kept protestors and fascists separate. Although they could do little to stop generous handfuls of blue glitter being sprinkled over the heads and necks of the fascist thugs.

Today’s anti-fascist action and commemoration of the New Zealand land wars was an overwhelming success and an incredibly positive event. It felt great to see a wide range of political groups and people come together in solidarity. As Teanau Tuiono spoke about, there were activists present on that day who came out again today to struggle against racism. The good news is that the far-right and the National Front have not grown. In fact, it seems that their numbers and support are dwindling.

However, in New Zealand and across the world we’ve seen an increase in racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant ideas coming from the mouths of mainstream politicians. In many ways, this event was less about a few National Front idiots than it was about showing the Labour Party and New Zealand First that we reject their anti-immigrant scapegoating. Over the past four years mainstream politicians from all major parties, Labour, New Zealand First, National, and the Greens, have all readily blamed immigrants (read Asians, Indians and Muslims) for society’s woes. Incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is committed to cutting immigrant numbers to 30,000. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will undoubtedly push for even more restrictions and cuts. Labour may couch this scapegoating in more friendly terms. They recently said that they will “take a breather” on immigration. In reality, these policies restrict the freedom of people to live in the country that is best for them and their families; these policies sow divisions within the working class pitting New Zealand workers against “foreign” workers; it legitimizes the mass exploitation of migrant workers in the South Island who have been employed on dodgy, underpaid, slave-labour contracts in dangerous agricultural work by many of New Zealand’s top companies; and it encourages the illusion that “kiwi” workers have shared interests with “kiwi” bosses and politicians.

The action today was about solidarity against the historic racism of white settler colonialism and land theft. And it was about solidarity among Maori, workers, immigrants, refugees and students against the continuing racism of the Labour Party and New Zealand First.