By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch
Thousands of people took part in the Black Lives Matter protests in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin today.
Auckland’s Aotea Square protesters, largely peaceful and family oriented, marched to Custom Street and demonstrated outside the American consulate where protesters took a knee and observed a minute of silence for George Floyd.
This was one of two mass gatherings in Auckland today after the 23rd day in a row of New Zealand being covid-19 free.
The other was at Eden Park which displayed a “sold out” sign after a capacity 43,000 tickets had been sold for the Blues-Hurricanes Super Rugby Aotearoa match this afternoon. This match and one between the Highlanders and Chiefs in Dunedin last night kicked of the world’s first post-covid live crowd rugby matches.
The Black Lives Matter protests around the world started with the death of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, on May 25 when white policeman Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Chauvin was videoed by Darnella Fraizer, a 17-year-old high school senior, as Floyd pleaded: “I can’t breathe.”
He has been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter. Three other policemen have been charged for aiding and abetting and all four officers were sacked from the police.
‘Keep it peaceful’
The Auckland protest march opened with a karakia at Aotea Square and a mihi whakatau from Graham Tipene of Ngāti Whātua, who told the crowd to “keep it peaceful”.
“Our kids are here, so let’s do it right and fight for what’s right,” he said.
Members of the black African communities addressed the crowd on the Black Lives Matter movement, along with social justice campaigner Julia Whaipooti, who talked about the use of armed police in predominantly Māori and Pasifika areas.
“For many of us this is not a new moment in time, not a hashtag on Instagram,” she said.
Emilie Rakete from People Against Prisons Aotearoa and the Arms Down movement spoke about armed police, particularly in South Auckland.
She said the “truth is that we live on a graveyard in Aotearoa”, with NZ police laying down the bodies.
“When the cops say hands up, we say arms down.”
‘They love to profit off our pain’
Auckland-based Somali-NZ rapper Mo Muse performed a piece written in the past two weeks, saying “they love to profit off our pain”.
“Tell Winston Peters he can see me in hell cos we won’t be silenced.”
Auckland University of Technology academic Associate Professor Camille Nakhid, who researched police discrimination against the African community in New Zealand, said racism was the knee on the neck of Māori, Pasifika and other communities of colour in New Zealand.
“Everyone is talking and thinking about the murder of George Floyd in the US and the knee that was on his neck. But I want to talk about the knees on our neck, the Black indigenous people of colour in Aotearoa”, said Nr Nakhid, who is also chair of AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.
She said things such as putting students into lower streams in schools, lower standards of health and the uplifting of children were the knees upon the neck of people of colour in this country.
“This protest is because we love who we are. Do not let them turn our love into hate against each other.
“We have to remain awake because we need to get those knees off our neck.”
Wellington, Dunedin rallies
In Wellington, RNZ News reports that thousands of people gathered in Civic Square, to march to Parliament in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The march was organised by a group of community advocates, including Guled Mire.
In Dunedin, hundreds of people gathered at the Otago Museum reserve to show solidarity with the movement. They marched down George Street to the Octagon, where a rally was held.
The Auckland march, which started at Aotea Square, headed down Queen St and ended at the US consulate, where protesters took a knee and observed a minute of silence for George Floyd.