Not all protestors are mindless Marxists. Here is Sophia from Red Confectionery giving her account of the Anti Israel march in Auckland on Saturday.
Today was an interesting day; in fact I didn’t think it would be that interesting. Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Auckland (SFJP) had organised a march down Queen Street and rally to protest against Israel’s heavy-handed (slight understatement in my opinion) attack on Lebanon. It drew quite a large number of people, notably Chris Trotter, Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, the Unite! Union and others.
It started off quite peaceful. Everybody met up at Aotea Square where several people spoke. One of the organisers of (SFJP) gave an impassioned speech in both Arabic and English which the gathering crowd responded to enthusiastically. I was having a good time, apart from one guy trying to sell me a class struggle magazine for 50c, which I couldn’t buy because I literally had no change on me, and personally, wouldn’t buy anyway. He came up to me three times! He also got quite carried away in one of the speeches that was been giving.
Anyway, at around 1.30pm we all walked onto Queen Street and began the march down to the US consulate, namely because the US is giving its tacit approval of Israel’s attack on Lebanon. It was around this time when I started to feel not quite right about the protest. Several Unite members had taken control of the microphones and were chanting out slogans. Some were ok: “Israel, USA, how many kids did you kill today,” but some I refused to chant, which ended up being practically all the slogans that were being chanted:
“Down, down, Israel”
“Victory to Hezbollah”
“Up, up Hezbollah”
“Burn down Israel”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have serious issues with Israel and its treatment of Palestinian people and now, its treatment of Lebanon, but to call for a victory of Hezbollah? Hezbollah is fucking terrorist organisation. I understand why it is angry (again, another understatement) but I seriously don’t support its actions. It really bothered me that there were these Unite people that had virtually taken over the protest and in my opinion were hijacking it.
My condemnation of Hezbollah however is not some approval of Israel. I think Israel is virtually just as bad. It is sad that Israel and its allies have managed to create an envorinment where people feel so much despair that they turn to such awful messages to resist. However the conflict is just so mad and crazy that I think it is extremely misguided to take such a strong position when most people in New Zealand would not have first hand experience with the conflict in the Middle East.
Anyway, back to the protest. Once we got down to the US consulate there were more speakers. It got really out of hand here, when Simon Oosterman decided to climb on the veranda of the consulate. Big mistake. He managed to half take down the US flag, and then ended up waving a Palestinian flag while the crowd chanting “Victory to Palestine” “Victory to Lebanon”
Of course the police weren’t too happy about this, and began to gather around the fire escape where Simon Oosterman had climbed up. However, when he climbed down a minor riot broke out in the alleyway. It was pretty appalling, as a skirmish broke out among the cops and some of the most hardened protestors. While they were fighting the protestors started to shout “Let him go!” and “Shame.” Now, I was right in the middle of all this, and it freaked the hell out of me, because I’m quite a small person and there were a lot of big guys there. I managed to get to the side, but then the skirmish moved closer to me, and then I couldn’t escape. It was about this time that I actually started to panic. Luckily, I managed to get out. However, I was thoroughly disgusted at what had happened. Mainly at the protestors. I mean, yes, if you climb on private property you will be arrested, and the police have every right to do so. It just sickened me that in trying to protest against the violence and death that is happening in the Middle East, we ended creating out own violence. It hardly sends a good message to the rest of public. Exactly how do you get the general public on your side when you act is an immature, irresponsible way? It completely undermines your entire message. I was appalled by the protest today. It sad that there are some mad people out there that completely dominated the protest and don’t allow any moderate opinions to get through.
In saying that, how exactly do you protest against Israel? Non-violent protests can be successful but it requires one to ‘shame’ the oppressors. Would that work against Israel? It’s hardly likely. So what should people do? Is the conflict in the Middle East a lost cause? Or should we maintain some idealistic dream that things will eventually resolve themselves?
I don’t think I have ever felt so cynical about something.