Anti-mandate protestors have (unfortunately) made their way to Tāmaki Makaurau with an “occupation” planned at Pukekawa/Auckland Domain. Flags of all kinds can be seen flying as anti-mandate anti-vax protestors walk over Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. They can also be seen at Pukekawa from UoA’s Grafton campus. The most (personally) infuriating of which is the Tino Rangatiratanga flag. A flag that stands for much more than those who have chosen to fly it at anti-manaakitanga non-iwi led protests.
The flag was created in 1990 by Hiraina Marsden, Jan Smith, and Linda Munn who used the traditional Māori colours of red, black, and white. Black represents Te Kore (the void), a space existing beyond everyday experiences, while white represents Te Ao Marama or world of light. Red represents Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother), the land, and active forces, while the koru represents an unfurling fern that symbolises a renewal of life. It has since been recognised as the official flag of our people.
To fly the flag, one must follow key principles, two of which include “expressing a spirit of mutual respect and nationhood”, and “respecting Tino Rangatiratanga as a flag that represents all Māori”, neither of which these anti-vax protestors uphold. Mutual respect has not been upheld since the occupation outside of Parliament. Threats and violence towards the public have become an everyday occurrence. Videos of occupiers discarding their waste on whenua that is not theirs are disrespectful to the water and the land, especially with local iwi (Ngāti Toa) repeatedly asking protestors to leave.
Compare this to a mana whenua led occupation. Being at Ihumāatao, you could feel real manaakitanga. It was a glimpse into a possible future of Pacific unity. It transported you to a different world where the love of the land and culture was the kaupapa. There is none of that outside of Parliament. Waste is spilt into rainwater drains, Nazi flags are flown, and school children are threatened on their way home. This is a reality that students on our city and Grafton campus could face on our way to and from Uni
Linda Munn, who helped create the flag, has called out anti-vaccine protestors for hijacking the Tino Rangatiratanga flag for the so-called Freedom coalition march. In some cases, we’ve seen the flag flown upside down. It further illustrates that these protests don’t represent shared values amongst Māori in regard to Tino Rangatiratanga and Te Ao Māori.
With the movement finding its way to Tāmaki Makaurau, I asked Indigenous and Pacific students at the University for their opinions on Tino Rangatiratanga being flown in movements that are not with the kaupapa.
Mary*, highlights the false subconscious narratives the public can form from seeing Pacific flags flown at these sorts of movements. “It just makes us look bad, It makes them think we’re all anti-vax. Waving the Flag of Tonga shows how proud we are as Tongan people [but] waving it at these events is something we shouldn’t be proud [of].” They noted that “there’s always that one guy”, referring to how one person can misrepresent their people.
Hugh (Ngāpuhi), a 3rd-year science student notes how it can negatively characterise Māori. “It paints us as anti-intellectual and anti-science.
“Part of me doesn’t blame our people for believing this stuff, we are targets for misinformation spreaders,” but they note it’s “disheartening as part of my study focuses on the immune system.”
“The freedom they fight for isn’t freedom for the medically fragile.”
A continuous theme of this “movement” and protest is their support for an ambiguous concept of “freedom”. The only freedoms at risk are the freedoms of privileged people to go against rules despite having the choice to get vaxxed or not. In reality, unvaccinated people are merely suffering the consequences of their decision not to do the bare minimum to protect others in the midst of a global pandemic. Their ideology goes against the freedom of the medically fragile, the immunocompromised, the elderly, healthcare workers who have become overrun as Covid has gotten out of hand, and the disabled tauira at our University. The protest outside of Parliament has become a super spreader event and we do not want the same happening right next to our campus and central hospital.
AUSA president Alofa So’olefai noted that “growing up the fa’asamoa way mean[s] I naturally put other people and their needs ahead of my own; and with these mandates, I see it as putting the safety and security of my 84-year-old bedridden great-grandma and my 71-year-old grandad who underwent a triple bypass before my own.”
Alofa sees “the mandates as gates,” acknowledging that although some see them as “jail gates,” the mandates are “there to protect these people people that saturate the Māori and Pacific communities (not just old and sick, but technologically inept), who paved the way for us to be here in the ‘land of milk and honey’.”
“When I see the Pacific and Māori flags flown at these protests, I am disheartened because it doesn’t represent all of us. Many of my family work in the health sector and they work their butts off serving our people and helping them because they happen to be one of (if not the most) affected and disadvantaged groups of people in this nation when it comes to government policy”.
Alofa noted her frustration, stating “my teina are struggling to meet essay deadlines because they have to attend funerals of their loved ones who were affected by this virus”.
While these protestors march over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, massive protests for peace across the world are being held after Russia declared war on Ukraine. Within Russia, it is illegal to have an “unsanctioned gathering” and those that protest are likely to be arrested for protesting war. It puts the self-indulgent protests of those outside of Parliament who think they are oppressed into perspective as others across the world fight for real freedom. When we compare ourselves to other nations, our death toll is significantly lower, thanks to a considerably high vaccination rate and lockdown initiatives. Yet some still call for mandates and vaccinations to end. Equality feels like oppression when you’re privileged.
Hopefully, by the time this piece comes out, they’d have left and have taken their shit with them instead of pouring it into Auckland’s rainwater drains.
*name has been changed for privacy