Palestine march in Christchurch, NZ

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Apr 28 08:19:37 MDT 2002


This is a quick few notes on the march in Chirstchurch on Sat afternoon.

It was called at very short notice by the Middle East Information and
Solidarity Collective, and took place in part of the city centre.
People gathered at the Bridge of Remembrance and marched
along Oxford Terrace and up Worcester Boulevard, past the Arts Centre to
the museum.  A guy from Indymedia estimated there were about 60 people.
I thought roughly the same, 70 at most.  So it was pretty small, but
about the size of things in Christchurch.  In fact, the Indymedia guy
said later he was quite impressed by the size.

I guess this is a generational thing, coz for me as a teenager in the
1970s even a couple hundred people was a tiny march, and a respectable
march was at the very least 500 or 1,000.

Although the original plan had been to march back up the Boulevard to
the Square, I thought it might be better to have the rally outside the
museum.  That way we could be heard in the Arts Centre, which is very
busy on Saturday afternoons and also catch people going in and out of
the museum.  And avoid the oddballs who always congregate around the Square.

So we had a rally at the museum, with three of us from the
MidEast Collective speaking, and a speaker from the Muslim Students
Association.  I then wrapped up the rally.  But a few minutes later, one
of the MSA people told me a number of Palestinians had gone straight to
the Square and set up a display down there, and some of them had come
down to the museum as well, so he suggested we keep marching.  So we got
people back together and marched back down the Boulevard to the Square,
with probably 60 people again - people who had already left were
basically replaced by the Palestinians who had arrived.  This would mean
the total number of individuals who participated in the march/es was
probably about 80.

The Palestinians had also brought a banner, so this was good and that
went at the front.  (Before that we just had our banner from the war on
Afghanistan, which just said 'Stop the War' in Arabic and English.)

In the Square we had another rally, with myself and a guy from the
Alliance speaking.

Now as to who was there and who wasn't.

Obviously, Mideast Collective and Revo were there.  There was one SWOer
(Cliffites).
About 3-4 parasites from the Barnes cult (the 'Communist
League'/Militant Labor Forum group) showed up.  I actually tackled them
about the fact that they do nothing to build any of these protests, just
show up on the day to parasitise off the work of others, by selling
their American cult paper.  But saying this to them is like talking to
the living dead.  The moron I said this to, who has been with them for 25
years, wouldn't even look me in the face.  He just loped off.

There was a number of Alliance people, probably the biggest single
group, as one of the MIdeast Collective had done an email around
Christchurch Alliance people and
been on the phone.  Since the split in the Alliance, and the expulsion of
the Anderton parliamentary leadership, the party has decided to try and
bring a PLO speaker over for a tour.

The peacenicks (Peace Action Network) were noticeable by their absence.
Hanging out with the UN imperialists and Helen Clark, reading poems and
delivering supposedly Native American chants seems more their bag than
solidarity
with oppressed people who actually have the temerity to fight back.

One person from the Anarchist Roundtable was a big help in the build-up,
doing a lot of postering, but there was no sign of ART on the day.

The march was very spirited and, even with the modest numbers, it was by
far the biggest pro-Palestinian event in Christchurch that I've seen
since I've been back here (which is since 1994).  So that was quite
positive.  But it also showed just how far there is to go.  We have
about saturated the possibilities of mobilising the left on the issue,
and there is little point in continuing to walk 60 people up the street
again.  We need to really get out a lot more and talk to ordinary NZers
about the issue.  We're starting to build up some good resources, in
terms of vids, a powerpoint thing on the Iraq sanctions, displays on
Palestine, and we need to take these out across the city, to local areas
and starting having stalls and so on at shopping malls, community halls,
high schools etc.

The next event in the MidEast activities calendar in Christchurch is an
afternoon seminar organised by 'revolution' on May 11, at the Workers
Education Association hall in Gloucester Street, which looks at how the
Western powers oppress the Middle East, imperialism and anti-imperialism
today.

Philip Ferguson




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