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Our place, our country too

Our place, our country too

Rallies at Parliament on 23 August 2004

Waves of emotion. Rolling sound overpowering thought. Chanting. Black shirts. Black and red. The sound of the haka. Twelve year old boys shouting 'Enough is Enough.' Placards. Love and friendship. Fear and anger. Fists being raised to cries of 'Jesus.'

23 August 2004. What a bizarre morning it turned out to be. I showed up at Parliament about 11.30am and there were about 200 people in the area around the Seddon statue. The march of pro-Human Rights people showed up on Molesworth Street about 15 minutes later with another 400 or so; there were 5-600 people all decked out in bright colours, orange and white balloons.

And then the others arrived.

Streams of people in black shirts and black pants. Fists punching the air. I reckon about 4000 all up; there would have been about 5000 people on the grounds of Parliament at the height of it.

They mobbed us, surrounded us and pushed us in together and came through us and divided us and stood with us and hated us and shouted at us and laughed with us and cried with us.

We disrupted their haka by standing in front of it - it was loud and it had them chanting, again, fists in the air, 'Enough is Enough' - their sound system drowned ours out.

All sang the National Anthem; me loudly, holding my placard aloft. Looks of surprise and fear were evident in their eyes around us. They thought the anthem was theirs; that we would somehow not take part in a national ritual for all of us. They were wrong.

I do not think I have ever felt so cut off from a group of people in my life. They were there but they weren’t. They were like a group of people so high or so drugged that reality had ceased to have meaning.

I do not think I have ever felt more together with the unionists, the liberals, the decent people in all their colours and life and beauty supporting us.

I’ve never felt so afraid as I did when I saw them arriving, black and red, hate in their eyes, a frenzy of zealots spilling out across the Parliament grounds, surging up the hill towards us.

Afraid but more important, sad.

Destiny can say what they like, about 'supporting families' etc, but their arguments come down to an opinion, which they believe is backed by the word of God: that queer New Zealanders are not entitled to the same civil rights as straight New Zealanders.

They are wrong.

Nobody who was there can ever forget the contrast: the hate and anger and black and red; versus the colour and diversity and humanity of our crowd.

Nobody will be able to avoid the comparison between them and another group of black shirts, German ones from seventy years ago. I do not think that Destiny are a new fascism in the making; they are far too fringe for that, and there is no precedent or cause to fear such a thing. I have seen enough movie footage of the Third Reich to be sensitive to the allusions though, and the similarities were there.

A strange day. I'm glad it is done. I am glad we stood and confronted them; I am glad we had more people than we expected and that they had fewer. I’m glad we were colourful and alive.

I feel sorry for them; sorry that they suffer such hate, and sorry that they believe so strongly in something that is so flawed and wrong.

I feel grief; grief that they cannot accept that this is our place, our country too.

I feel hope; hope that their arguments are not going to stop legislation that deserves to pass.

I feel sadness; sadness at the thought that people choose to enter into an organisation which asks them to suspend their judgement and their humanity and attack the rights and aspirations of ordinary, hard-working people much like themselves.

I walked off Parliament Grounds about 12.30pm, as Pastor Tamaki began his speech. The nausea wore off on the way back to work, but I was distracted for the rest of the day.

I walked back with a Maori friend, who had the added burden of needing to cope with his own culture being flung at him, attacking who he is.

A day to remember indeed.

----- Jordan Carter is a Wellington based Labour Party activist and occasional commentator. He maintains a blog at http://jtc.blogs.com.

ENDS

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