Thousands of New Zealanders took to the streets, mobilizing in cities across the nation to demonstrate against what they perceive as racist policies of the newly appointed government. The mass protests, organized by the indigenous Māori Party, Te Pāti Māori, were timed to coincide with the opening day of Parliament, voicing concerns over co-governance issues and the handling of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the country's founding treaty.
A Call to Action, Not Protest
At the heart of the Wellington protest, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi reframed the event as an "activation" rather than a protest. He stressed the collective unity of the people and their determination to make their voices resonate within the halls of Parliament. Waititi, along with fellow co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer, affirmed that the demonstrations signaled an ongoing opposition that would not wane over the next three years.
Unaddressed Inequities and Disconnect
Ngarewa Packer leveled criticism at the government for its failure to address the disparities faced by Māori, accusing it of disconnect with the indigenous population. She pointed out that the current ruling parties, New Zealand First and ACT, had remained aloof from engaging with Māori, continuing what she termed a "racist carry-on" from their time in opposition.
Freedom to Protest or Political Theater?
New Zealand First's deputy leader Shane Jones acknowledged the right to protest, yet labeled the actions as theater. He suggested that the democratic process had been concluded with the elections on October 14th. Nevertheless, the protests ensured that the voices of the Māori would not be silenced, with significant gatherings in Tauranga, where around 500 people marched down State Highway 2, and plans to block State Highway 1 in the Waikato region.