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Multicultural Aotearoa Says 3000+ Marched

Multicultural Aotearoa 25 October 2004

3000-4000 people joined the march against racism in Wellington on Saturday, which marched to parliament peacefully to affirm diversity in New Zealand and reject racist ideology. Police have given some strange estimates of the crowd-numbers for the anti-racism march, but the photographs speak for themselves.

Image by Scoop’s Alastair Thompson.

[people holding the lead banner include Adam Awad, Vice-President of the Somali Association (tall Somali man holding sign), Silvia Zonoobi of the Alay Refugee and Migrant centre (small Filipina woman in headscarf), Tze Ming Mok, spokesperson for Multicultural Aotearoa (Chinese woman in green), Prem Singh, President of the Ethnic Council of Wellington (Indian man in dark glasses and blazer), and Giovanni Tiso, Multicultural Aotearoa organising committee (Italian man in yellow marshal’s jacket).]

Though good humoured and celebratory, the march emphasised that racism in New Zealand went far deeper than the National Front, and that political society and the media encourages racist stereotypes and ethnic scapegoating. Speakers included a wide range of respected ethnic community leaders, the Race Relations Commissioner Joris DeBres, and Dean Hapeta from Upper Hutt Posse.

The police presence on the anti-racism march and at parliament was practically nonexistent due to the entirely peaceful nature of the march, leaving march organisers wondering whether the police crowd-estimates were based on a completely different gathering.

The National Front had left parliament by the time the anti-racism march was halfway up Lambton Quay. The news was greeted with the chant: “racist, sexist, anti-gay, the fascists have all run away!” Other chants on the march were: ‘we don’t want your racist fear, immigrants are welcome here’, and ‘hey hey, ho ho, racism has got to go’.

The early departure of the National Front from parliament was chalked up as a victory for the anti-racism movement by ethnic community speakers at the rally. The National Front had been emphatically told “‘no’ in Christchurch, and ‘no’ in Wellington” said Pancha Narayanan, President of the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils to the delighted crowd.

When told of a reported scuffle at the railway station which was separate from the rally at parliament, Multicultural Aotearoa spokesperson Tze Ming Mok stated that "We’ve never supported the use of violence. Our vastly larger anti-racism march to Parliament had a positive and constructive focus, and we were incredibly successful in keeping it peaceful and family-friendly. If there was a fight down the road it will have been a continuation of a cycle of violence that has been started by the white supremacist movement, and it’s no good at all that the revolting behaviour of the National Front has caused people to lose control of their anger. Still, perhaps this experience will cause the National Front to realise that it’s no fun being a picked-on minority.”

The following speech was delivered at parliament by Tze Ming Mok, representing the Multicultural Aotearoa march organising committee:

Tena tatou katoa, huanyin da jia, welcome everyone.

A few months ago, after the Jewish cemetery attacks and bashing of the Somali kids by skinheads, hundreds of people came to a public meeting in Newtown and voted unanimously to hold this march. We knew the National Front’s violent racism was only part of the issue. Because it is institutional, political and social racism that allows freakish groups like the National Front to exist. The community threw forth three principles for the march to uphold. Our first goal was to stop the National Front from staking any claim on this country. And we’ve already won that victory here today. They’ve run away. We’ve shown that if you hate everybody, you don’t end up with many friends, do you.

Our other two key principles are to oppose the scapegoating of migrant minorities, and to oppose the scapegoating of Tangata Whenua. These days Migrants, refugees, and even tourists from undesirable countries are being targeted by scaremongering stereotypes, and xenophobic knee-jerk policies that make no sense. And Maori who dare to speak up for their people, history and identity are branded as haters, wreckers and criminals. Is it any surprise that minorities are being attacked and abused horrendously?

Even if they carry out those attacks, skinhead white supremacists are not the real problem. They don’t have any real influence over the way people think and behave. They are just the ugly boil atop a much deeper infection. The symptom, but not the cause.

Let me give you an example. Do you know why some of us dread election year? Maori, Pacific and Asian people, refugees, people of the middle East and Africa, we’ll all undergo a miraculous transformation – from human beings, into political footballs. One minute we’ll be walking around minding our own business, the next we’ll be the biggest threat to the nation since world war 2 - trumped up as aggressors, foreign invaders, nuisances, drains on the state. Election year means that me and my family, and people from so many minority communities, are going to be abused and harassed on the streets of our cities, for nothing more than our accents and the colour of our skin. Ignorance and hostility will be given free reign. And the people dishing out most of this hatred won’t be the National Front. No, they will be ordinary New Zealanders, of all ethnicities, who have been told, encouraged, to give in to their most uninformed fears, ordinary New Zealanders issued a licence to be racist, issued by the people who have the most influence over our political culture. The National Front don’t have any real power over us. There’s a much more powerful source of racism here with us today. It’s the building right behind me.

It’s time now to tell politicians and the media, that although they play race cards all the time, it’s NOT a game they’re playing with, it’s our lives. That when they kick us around for fun and profit, that it hurts, because we are real people, and we belong to this country. It has to be time, surely, for these people who hold such immense cultural power, to grow up and take some responsibility – and if they don’t, they must admit that they ARE culpable for a society that plays host to violence and bigotry.

Whether or not they are listening, we, all of us, have a responsibility to turn that bigotry around. And we here, Pakeha, Maori, Asian, Pacific, African, Middle-Eastern, are doing it already in the stand we’ve made today for the inclusive society we all deserve. It’s not too late for Aotearoa. We have the best chance of any country in the world to make this happen, and that’s why my family chose to come here. Today that we’ve made a positive statement, a positive difference. And I’m tired of saying and hearing the word no today. I want to hear the word yes.

Can you answer me now, are we all in this together? Are we ready for a multicultural Aotearoa?

And did my parents come to the right country?

Thank you.

© Scoop Media

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