A cis white man at the protests
It began as a hum, really. The gradual swell of a cacophonous orchestra as you made your way across Albert Park. Ear plugs went in (My reader would later say it was on average 115dB, or a constant chainsaw) and I approached with my tray. For a bring your own instrument party, the protest was actually quite calm.
Though other media outlets, and indeed Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull herself, may claim it was a chaotic mess of grenade-like objects and barriers flying everywhere, the reality from the ground is simpler. People were organised, concentrically from the rotunda. There were certainly brass instruments—indeed, a whole metal band, though slightly removed from the area—and placards that obscured my view of the woman herself, but there was no riot. The average person stood, waved their flag, banged their pot; and that was it. There was no violent mob, there were people sliding in and out of a protest group, leaving the loudest ‘red zone’ and moving towards the calmer ‘green zone’.
And there were chants, “Go home Posie, go home”, a crowd favourite. Though, in all fairness, it didn’t last long enough for it to pick up pace. Doused in tomato juice, a symbol of the blood of trans women that she has wronged, Parker left dishevelled in a police car, inquiring as to whether “it was time to call [it off]” on New Zealand. Officially the worst place she’s ever been, not four days after she labelled Hobart the same, Auckland scared her off a journey to Wellington, and she boarded an Emirates flight out. United against a common foe, allies and trans people alike were brought together in their beliefs, and with a voice of thousands, ensured no one heard a single word from her. The TERF, trans-exclusionary radical feminist, Posie Parker, had been overcome. Her views having no physical platform in this country.
And although some news outlets may report this as a win for Parker, victimised and presented with a week of media coverage, she is certainly more a household name then she ought to be. To which one can only accept that sometimes it is better to face people head on, then leave them to fester in unchecked echo chambers. That day, the world learned our country stands against her ideology, her transphobia, and we should be proud.
The rotunda has been taken, read the news report of the time. People poured in, and speeches were given. The noise died down to a comfortable 85dB, or a constant alarm clock. Standing only a few rows back, it was near impossible to tell the substance of the speeches, even when they were directed into a microphone. But we all chanted, caught in the energy of the atmosphere, expelling the stress and pain suffered by so many among us.
And that was it. Or rather, it should have been it. Rewind, 45 minutes or so, at 11 on the hour, rode past a series of motorbikes. They revved, and it was impossible to tell of whom it was in support.
Back in the present, a rumour spreads, it ripples among groups of people gathered at the protest. As Marama Davidson speaks of Taonga and Hara, hushed tones sweep between lips: “They’re protesting in Aotea Square.”
At first, it seems Parker merely retreated, consolidated her forces and found new space, but then it becomes clear that is not the case. As you wander down Lorne Street, the sound swells again, by the time you’re on Queen St, the semblance of order is smashed. Massive men menace protesters, who stand firm in the face of threats of physical violence. The protest is more muted, colourful people pushed into a corner of Aotea Square, backed against the wall by VisionNZ.
In the centre of the maelstrom, Brian Tamaki, the second religious leader this role has given me the displeasure of interacting with, supporting his wife Hannah, the leader of Vision, one of the newer political parties on the scene. Fed up with the indoctrination of their children, railing against how unsafe it is for their young, Destiny Church brought infants of all ages into the middle of a mob. Some stood on the outskirts, videoing the affair, laughing and pulling various hand gestures. Two men on a raised platform raised their arms in a way that I would say was akin to a Nazi salute.
After much jostling, Tamaki and his supporters pushed past, and broke onto Queen St. A main road, which may it be added, was not prepared for a sudden influx of demonstrators and counter-protestors. People were suddenly trapped in buses and their cars as people swarmed down, and then up, Queen St around them. Vision’s group was surrounded by onlookers and protestors, the group right up against them led by yours truly, though I seemed to just fall into that position.
In comparison, this protest was more violent. Three separate scuffles were witnessed, and despite reports, there were no police involved in any of them. In fact, middle aged women seemed the most adept at stopping the men from getting themselves arrested for criminal assault when an officer could spot them. Protestors of both sides shoved their placards in front of each other, as “stop the gender education” and “go and get an education” blurred into ‘go and get gender education.’ A noble endeavour.
And once the grand old duke of Destiny had marched his men down the hill, he was brought up against the immovable force, the rock that he could not overcome: the Nepal festival. And so they performed a Haka, and turned and pushed back through us, who had been following them, and were immediately confounded by their newfound desire to run away. Shoved to the edges of Queen St, ears ringing from two hours of chanting and pots clanging, it was right to call time. And once they got to the top of the hill again, everyone went their separate ways anyway.
A protester was struck, Marama Davidson was too. A comment that “cis white men cause violence in this world” was made. And they do, to deny this is to deny the suffering of all the women who suffer domestic violence from their partners, all the people assaulted by drunk men, or all the people sent off to fight in a war called for by the next cis, white, and male politician. She has since walked it back, and no doubt there will be some hurt feelings. Men have to accept that men cause more violence than other gender identities. European peoples have to accept the harm Europeans have caused. All cis people have to accept the struggle that trans people have had; and continue to have, to be accepted and integrated, both into themselves, and society at large.
As for the trans whānau, and the entire LGBTQ community, thousands came and stood together, and now is the time to use that support, that visibility, and take action. As a waving placard told Parker: respect existence or expect resistance.