Saturday, 15 October 2011


Today, Occupy protests around the world are being held. In New Zealand they've been organised for six cities, including Christchurch, so when the weather turned too dodgy to harvest flax I decided to head down to Hagley Park instead. I turned up shortly after twelve to see a few dozen people there already. We weren't due to march until later, so the first hour or so I was there was basically just drifting around, talking to a few people, looking at the signs people were making, etc. I painted up one of my own to hold during the march - "Dear John..."

After a little while we ended up gathered around as the organisers said a few words and declared open mic, which opened with some words about the dawn raids back in 2007 - coincidentally, on October 15, so it's been four years today. There was a steady stream of people with something to say and I went up to say something that I'm assuming was coherent because I was complimented on it later. It was about herd immunity and how we don't have to rely on a "love your neighbour" justification for equality, because all of society is stronger when everyone has basic healthcare and enough money to live on and education. About halfway through a motion was passed to remember that we all had different political views (and some don't take part in the political system at all) and to officially declare the occupation apolitical. It passed not quite unanimously, but well over 90%.

The next person to take the mic was a guy from ACT.

Honestly I'm not quite sure what his over-riding point was supposed to be, because he kept veering into really political territory, at which point everyone would start heckling him. Eventually he just gave up and some more people spoke, until maybe five minutes later, another guy from ACT on Campus tried to remind us that capitalism is awesome because otherwise we wouldn't have any scientists. He, also, was heckled until he gave up, and shortly afterwards a science student came up to say that very few of his course-mates were in it for money and that if you wanted to make money you probably shouldn't be in science anyway. Shockingly, sometimes people go into a career because they like it, not because they want to be millionaires. I know, weird, right? There was also a little bit of poetry and a few of us sung Nga Iwi E (though I was sitting down and couldn't be bothered hobbling up to the mic for it with the others who knew the words).

Shortly past two we split up into smaller groups. I drifted into the part where people were talking national issues - we covered a few things like affirmative action, inequality, the price of dairy, leading into dairy farming and the ETS, the state of the education system and how it could be improved, staff cuts at Canterbury University, so on and so on. A bit to eat, and then it was time to head down to Riccarton Road, with me clomping along with my cane at a steady clip.

It was hard to see but a few people moving up and down the line reported that it was very long. Obviously we had far fewer people than, say, Auckland, but it was a good turnout so walking down footpaths we looked pretty impressive. We'd been briefed beforehand on how to keep everything legal so we did, in fact, stay on the footpath and off private property. Not only that, we stopped at cross-lights, and when there weren't any we crossed roads in groups. When I was at the front we also were apologising to people walking the other way and trying to make room for them, though I'm not sure what it was like further back. At any rate, it was an incredibly fucking polite protest march. We got quite a lot of response from passing cars, too, which was neat. We ended up heading right down past the mall to a little park that's sort of halfway between Westfields and Church Corner, where we rested for a bit and then started heading back.

When we made it back to Hagley Park it was just past five, and at that point I was exhausted and thirsty (having drunk all my water while walking down the road) and decided to head home. When I left there were still quite a lot of people there settling down to listen to music and chat more.

So, yes, all in all it was a super day. It looked briefly like it was going to be rainy but luckily it cleared up quite quickly and the sun came out for us. I had some great conversations with some very smart, well-educated people, and the number that turned up was really encouraging. There were quite a few kids and dogs, too, and the alcohol and drug free rule was barely an issue because everyone was just really chill. I'm not sure if anyone's planning on staying the night - there's a bylaw about camping in public places - but there were a couple of gazebos and three or so tents set up, and there was discussion of sitting up into the night wrapped in blankets at the very least.

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