In the wake of yesterday’s shocking, violent behaviour by the anti-everything contingent at Parliament, PAT PILCHER asks: what’s next for NZ?
After an eternity of anti-mandate protestors dominating the media and Parliament becoming a no-go zone for anyone who didn’t want to be hassled, the police took decisive action.
We at Witchdoctor reckon yesterday should be known forever afterwards as New Zealand’s “taking out the trash” day.
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Today, many Wellingtonians (myself included) woke up feeling wrung out and emotionally exhausted. Wellington has put on a stunning day, proving the old saying that “Even after the darkest sky, storms and hurricanes, the sun still dances around the cloud and shines after every storm.”
Yesterday, all major media outlets live-streamed the police action. It made for utterly hypnotic viewing that left many feeling sickened, sad, and angry. Shouting at the TV didn’t help. Words failed me. I caught myself calling these protestors filthy animals. Still, the reality is that animals have never been this vile or destructive.
The police turned up in huge numbers and operated swiftly with precision to what appeared to have been a well thought out plan. Having swooped in, removing, and piling up tents, the western end of Parliament grounds looked like a landfill as grubby tents and other detritus mounted. Dishevelled protestors were herded into the eastern end of Parliament grounds. The police then began their final push to clear the grounds of protestors.
Then thick black smoke billowed out as protestors set the kids’ playground on fire. One protestor was heard saying, “If we can’t have it, nobody can”. Incredibly, others were calling for more fires to be lit. Who the fuck does that to a kids’ playground?
Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of the day came when pictures emerged of a protestor facing down riot police with shields while balancing a baby on his shoulders. Hopefully, Oranga Tamariki is involved, and the many cases of shitty parenting on display will be dealt with swiftly.
By 3 pm, the police had pushed protestors out of parliament grounds onto the area around the cenotaph on lower Lampton Quay. More fires were lit, and it appears that some of the once beautiful 100-year-old oaks around parliament’s main gates may have been burnt beyond saving. Protestors were seen pulling up paving bricks, using them as projectiles, throwing them at police who relied on riot shields. At the 5.30 press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Adern was visibly upset, struggling to control her anger and sadness at what was transpiring outside.
While the protestor trash has been taken out of Parliament grounds, one thing is certain. Big changes are coming, and nothing will be the same again.
While Parliament grounds have been a destination for office workers on lunch breaks and tourists forever, now access to Parliament might be restricted. What was once accessible could end up walled off. It’d be a sad outcome and one that symbolises an end of innocence for New Zealand’s politics. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.
Big questions also need to be asked as the inevitable witch hunt kicks off. Perhaps the biggest and scariest is this: How did imported conspiracy theories gain so much traction? How did they get used to indoctrinate peaceful Kiwis into committing such extreme acts of violence?
Many of the wacky theories peddled and responses to online debate by protestors and their supporters amounted to little more than a parroting of the nonsense peddled by Q-Anon and other US-based alt-right groups.
This highlights a concerning trend. New Zealand politics has long been characterised by peaceful protests and informed debate. Now, a multi-faceted monster is on the scene that needs to be tackled head-on.
It’s a combination of social media, political opportunism, local extremists and offshore interests that has pulled normally sensible individuals into craziness and violence. What can be done to protect Kiwis from this imported misinformation and indoctrination without trampling over the open democracy that makes New Zealand such a special place to live in?
The hate laws introduced after the Christchurch mosque shootings were far simpler. Hate against specific groups might be terrible but they are easy to police. Nebulous conspiracy theories that also plug into toxic political rhetoric are far harder to legislate against. I’m not advocating online censorship. That’s a slippery slope where no one wins.
Either way, there’s an argument that something needs to be done as recent events exposed how fragile New Zealand’s democracy really is. This issue is unlikely to go away anytime soon. While there is little debate that something needs to be done, implementing a workable solution will be a fraught process.
Another big question that is potentially easier to address is why did so many fall for what can only be described as a pile of alt-right bullshittery? Anyone with doubts about the level of craziness on display only need look to the tinfoil hat uptake as Covid began to strike protestors down.
Might it be that we need to teach critical thought and media awareness to kids in school, so idiocy such as this doesn’t ever gain similar traction? Another idea is that civics (how government and society works) is taught. Doing so could help ensure that misinformation doesn’t cohabitate with ignorance.
Regardless of where you sit politically or how you feel about vaccination mandates, the senseless destruction yesterday should be seen for the thuggish and thoughtless acts they were. We hope that those who took part in, organised, funded, or facilitated the protest and subsequent acts of violence are held to account. Here’s hoping the courts throw the fucking book at these horrible people and that they get to spend a long time behind bars pondering their craziness. (And that they have to pay it all back).