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Protest Space Scarce As APEC Moves Into High Gear

By Selwyn Manning - Inside the APEC Media Centre, Auckland.

More immigrant groups representing developing countries like India, with a strong Kashmir contingent, are well organised and vocal in getting their message soliciting world recognition of the human rights abuses they claim to suffer back in India.

Also, pro-Indonesia and pro-East Timor independence factions are clashing as protest space along Queen St becomes more scarce.

Arguments are commonplace but to date all protest action has been peaceful. Last night's anti-APEC protest march was attended by around 700 people. It made its way from QEII Square at the foot of Queen Street and made its was to the Auckland Town Hall.

Speeches were held at the beginning and the end of the march. An overt police videoing team recorded the march and apart from minor irritations between protesters and police video camerapersons, the protest ended without a single pepper-spray canister expelled.

Inside the Auckland APEC centre, it is business business, business. Trade agreements and talks of foreign relations are intensifying.

The United States is taking the opportunity to raise issues which taunt world stability - such as North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and its imminent programme to test long range ballistic missles.

US President Bill Clinton said this morning his meetings with the South Koreans were to raise a willingness among that economy's leaders to embrace “a compassion for the people of North Korea”. He said North Korea needs food for its children and not weapons of mass destruction.

Other key meetings today will be between Japan and the USA.

Security around the APEC conference is at its highest so far. Armed marksmen have stationed themselves around the Auckland Domain in preparation for the leader's attending functions at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Throughout last night, Aucklanders awoke to the thumping of helicopters above. Auckland is a security zone now. And from inside the heart of this bastion of free market ideology, one wonders if it will ever be the same again.

Sense suggests once all the leaders have gone on Tuesday, and the press corps and the international media and the delegations and the secret service agents and the provincial police and the German Shepherd/Wolf crossbreed sniffer dogs [which curl their lips without even a growl] all return to their respective abodes, then Aucklanders will be left with the simplicity of silence and stares which are all part of the New Zealand way.

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