• Who Were the Protesters?

    With the “protest” at Parliament now over, we have the chance to take stock and to understand what has happened.

    Following the scenes we witnessed yesterday, any claim that the protest was “peaceful and non-violent” can be dismissed. There will be some, however, who will maintain that the original protest was peaceful and that the early protesters were, as time went on, infiltrated by various and familiar elements of the international “far right” – the white supremacists, the conspiracy theorists, those hostile to government – any government, and government in general – Trump supporters, emulators of the 6 January attack on the Capitol – for all of whom the use of violence comes quite naturally. It was those elements, it is claimed, that transformed a protest by decent and responsible people into an attempted insurrection.

    The evidence, however, does not support this analysis. The initial scale and impetus of the protest at Parliament could have been achieved only by determined people with a clear and agreed strategy and goal. The early protesters were spoiling for a fight. It was those extremists and revolutionaries who used the violent language, and issued the threats of execution, that set the scene and created the atmosphere of impending violent confrontation.

    The “decent” and “peaceful” protesters were, on the whole, the later arrivals, attracted by the thrill of excitement and “a good day out” and the sense that, at last, they counted for something. Many of them were not so much “libertarians”, as merely opposed, on a range of different grounds, to the government – and this government in particular. Indeed, I suspect that for many the motivation was nothing more than to make life difficult for Jacinda and to swing public opinion against her. Wanting to change the government, and being unwilling to take the chance of waiting for and winning an election, may have been motivation enough for some.

    What we saw yesterday was clear evidence of these two quite separate groups and motivations. The political opportunists bailed out quite early in the face of the police assault. Those who stayed to the bitter end and toughed it out were the “far right” warriors. They were dancing to a different tune, a tune orchestrated (and probably funded) from far away.

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