Wellington is not all urban markets and fine dining though it is certainly heading in the right direction. There are number of natural hazards here including the umbrella-shredding wind, a saturation of Wishbone stores and constant protest marches. I bumped into one of the latter today.
It wasn’t a big protest – maybe fifty people – and was led by a man I had thoroughly believed would be in Parliament by now, Mr Andrew Little. Judging by the placards and the chanting, some EPMU members were very unhappy with Telecom and were loudly comparing the company to a number of bodily waste products.
The protest may have been small but Mr Andrew Little’s considerable organisational skills were certainly in evidence. There were a number of professionally designed EPMU banners being waved and most of the protesters had hand-written signs – albeit all in the same handwriting.
More media (1) were visible than Police (0). When the solitary photographer got ahead of the pack to take some front-on snaps, the marchers made sure to form two solid lines eight abreast at the front so that their group would appear much larger in any pictures. Once past those bristling front rows, the protestors walked more casually in twos or threes, many discussing the weekend’s sports results. It resembled some form of snake with a giant, puffed up head obscuring a thin, frail body.
It’s a political cliché to say that protests in New Zealand are not what they used to be but that does not mean its not true. I still recall the marches on Parliament in the 1990s by 1,000 Police and then 1,000 fire fighters thanks to the unique Ministerial skills of Jack Elder. These were hugely impressive protests though in retrospect I wonder who, if anyone, was policing them.
Conversely, a few weeks after the Police and Fire Service protests, students from Victoria University marched through town. From a pub, we generously estimated perhaps three hundred souls, several of whom have now beaten Mr Andrew Little into Parliament. The local newspaper optimistically reported 500. Encouraged, the Victoria student association immediately claimed there had been 1,000. Not to be outdone, the national student association put out a press release stating there were 2,000 students on the march.
I guess the other 1,700 or so must have either popped into the pub before ours or joined the march by car at the very last minute. Don’t laugh – that is exactly what happened on the Hikoi…