In a week’s time protesters will be descending on Auckland to voice their opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. It is an agreement that will benefit the elite, and undermine the democratic, economic and environmental rights of working people in each of the signatory countries. He has invited trade ministers from 12 countries to come to sign this deal at SkyCity casino, despite a clear majority of New Zealanders being opposed to this deal. John Key is making his allegiances clear. He is choosing to put the profits of few above the well being of all. Protesters will be there to give voice to the opposition but John Key wants to ignore us. It is our democratic right to show that we will not be ignored.
In response to this protest Key is trying to intimidate. He has ramped up riot training of the police, and Police have started visiting the homes of activists across the country. John Key claims to be concerned about “violent” protests. He knows full well that the activists opposed to the TPPA want to avoid violence. There has been no violent riots or arrests for violent offences at any TPPA protest so far. The intention of the government is not to protect law and order.
John Key is not afraid of riots in the streets, he is worried about big and popular movements against his economic policies. He wants to intimidate this opposition to limit the turn out at protests.
John Key wants to talk about violence because he doesn’t want to talk about the TPPA. He has already lost the trade deal debate. Whether or not protesters are confrontational or controlled will be irrelevant. There is a good chance the police will have the political directive to pressure protesters in an attempt to muffle the message. Protesters can’t just give up and go home to avoid the confrontation, this lets the government win.
We must protest, but should do everything we can to protect ourselves. The best protection protesters have is not to try to tailor their actions in a vain attempt to appeal to the media or placate the police. The response of police and media is out of protesters control. The best protection for demonstrators is political pressure. The more people who come, the bigger the voice against the TPPA, the higher the political cost of attacking peaceful marchers.
The movement has to do what ever it can to inspire the participation of the thousands of people rightfully angry at the undemocratic actions of this government.
The movement against the TPPA is varied. As such there are multiple protests called for the 4th of February. A group of protesters will be marching to Sky City at 9am, and a lunch time rally will march at 12pm from Aotea Square. The different rallies are asking for different levels of commitments, with the early rally marching to SkyCity and the latter seeking to avoid official venues. Both protests are seeking to be peaceful affairs but for both rallies the police response will be decided by the constabulary, not protest participants.
Those who oppose the TPPA have to stand together united in one cause. Public attacks within the movement that blame other protesters for the violence caused by John Key are counterproductive at best. At worst, these short sighted statements actually help to justify police illegally attacking demonstrators. Activists should focus on our common critique of the TPPA instead of legitimising John Key’s fear mongering.
If you want to stop the TPPA, and if you want to avoid violence, the best thing you can do next week is come join the events on the 4th. And we can’t go home when the day is done if the deal is signed. If popular power can’t stop signing the deal, it can turn it into a dead letter. Every time the TPPA powers are invoked we can fight each injustice, and make the deal unworkable.
But only if we stay together- on the 4th and in the future.