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1981 Molesworth St commemoration

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 pm, July 12th, 2011 - 14 comments
Categories: activism, law and "order", police, racism - Tags:

I was in the middle of the scrum on Molesworth Street on the night of July 29th 1981 when anti-apartheid marchers were batoned by the police. This was four days after the Springbok tour’s first match had been called off, a seminal event leading to the ending of racist apartheid as the pictures reverberated around South Africa. A front-rowers’ collective has organised a 30-year anniversary commemoration at the Loaves and Fishes for Friday 29 July, and invite others to join them for a night of reminiscing and celebrating.

The event will kick off at 7pm but people are welcome to come from 6pm. Finger food will be available and there will be a cash bar. People are welcome to bring byo drinks. Tickets are $15 to cover costs. If you would like to attend contact Paul Tolich 0275 935595 or Sue Ryall 021 380 176  or Helen Kelly. You can also email tollynz@xtra.o.nz. The organisers are hoping to arrange for a special event with a hook-up to South Africa; if it goes ahead this will be confirmed by email. The event is not limited to those who were in Wellington and fellow protestors who have now migrated to Wellington are welcome to join the celebrations.

14 comments on “1981 Molesworth St commemoration ”

  1. higherstandard 1

    “This was four days after the Springbok tour’s first match had been called off, a seminal event leading to the ending of racist apartheid as the pictures reverberated around South Africa. ”

    Ummmmm I don’t think so Tim.

    • HS always the cynic.  You should watch Patu or read some history or do something.  Are you part of the John Key generation who at the age of 20 did not have an opinion of the tour?

      • higherstandard 1.1.1

        Micky – sometimes NZ has a bit of a larger idea of their impact on the world stage than is realistic to saying that this was the seminal event leading to the end of racist apartheid is untrue – perhaps you should read some of the literature out of South Africa regarding the end of apartheid and the first open elections.

        I was in my early twenties and remember the tour well – what a shambles the whole thing was.

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1

          NZ made world news continuously for a while there.

          I agree its hard to measure the impact of that, but the sight of white apartheid protestors and armoured riot police having it all out on the normally sleepy streets of Wellington was a sight which made the commonwealth sit up and take notice.

          The other thing is that regardless of the final effects on South Africa, those protests did change us as a country.

    • Bored 1.2

      Het Lowerstandard, were you in Red Squad or in nappies?

  2. Anne 2

    Strewth… that Molesworth St. scrum brings back memories. I was at the march on Eden Park for the final test match. I remember watching the small aircraft flour bombing the rugby ground. We were on the outside of course but it was still an amazing sight. There was violence and thuggery on both sides and I remember being shocked and scared at the level of that violence.

    One man was responsible for this horrible episode in our history and that was Robert David Muldoon.

    • Aye Anne I was there too.  Had a perfectly good motorbike helmet wrecked but it was worth it.

      My dad still has a Biko shield tucked away in his shed! 

      I met Marx Jones again recently.  He is still advocating for left wing causes. 

      • Bored 2.1.1

        I remember the events well, many of us desparately wanted to see the Boks but protested instead, a sort of schizophrenia mirrored through out the community. The anti apartheid protest seemed to also encapsulate our generations rebellion against conservative paternalist NZ. Then there was the Maori element in the protest, highlighting another injustice within NZ.

        Three years after the Tour, the same protesting people threw out the Muldoon regime, out with the old and in with Roger. Its been all downhill since, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. My generation threw in its lot with all the false Gods. The same social schizophrenia remains, why else would a country believe a charlatan such as Key?

  3. Hilary 3

    I remember that night. I was there with a child in a pushchair but it got really ugly after the police charged so we went home and watched the royal wedding – such a bizarre contrast.

  4. Lindsey 4

    I was at all the Auckland protests, and 5 rows back from getting onto the field in Hamilton. Also my employer kindly orgainised a staff meeting in Wellington on the Friday before the match there so we could all stay over for the protest.
    I bought my house on February 1981 and basically camped in it until after theTour as we were so busy with Wednesdy night practices and Saturday marches.

  5. RedLogix 5

    But I’m guessing none of you are black South Africans… how dare you presume to speak for them!

    Well yes I’m being a tad cynical; but it’s worth asking… there are still plenty of equally vital causes for the left in the world today…. but why is a protest with anything like the same scale and passion so completely unlikely in New Zealand today?

    • Tiger Mountain 5.1

      Because a lot of people have disappeared up their own niches and individualist world views after 25 years of neo liberalism. The huge Auckland No Mining march was a glimmer of what is still both possible and necessary.

      Nelson Mandela thanked the anti tour movement for their efforts, and in person in New Zealand in 1995, so that is good enough for me. It was just unfortunate for the South Africans that they made their democratic breakthrough just when Reaganism/Thatcherism etc were at their height. The ballot box didn’t worry the corporates too much. And anyone reading the ANC freedom charter could discern it was a National liberation movement rather than necessarily a socialist one.

      I was at all the Auckland demos and mid week practices too, and recall Molesworth St as the turning point, when decent New Zealanders realised what the state forces were capable of.

  6. freedom 6

    “the turning point, when decent New Zealanders realised what the state forces were capable of.”

    yet have all too quickly forgotten

  7. swordfish 7

    I participated in an Anti-Tour march through Wellington in late August 1981, almost a month after Molesworth Street (and about 2 weeks after my 17th birthday).

    Molesworth Street obviously had a profound effect. As we were marching three-quarters the way up a hill towards Athletic Park, a twenty-something hippy (looking more 1971 than 1981 – in fact, Neil from The Young Ones reminded me very much of this guy) panicked on seeing a speeding police car way down below and screamed “Split !, it’s the Pigs !!!.” At which point, about half the 100 or so marchers likewise went into a blind panic (obviously thinking of what the cops had done a month earlier) and ran, slipped, scrambled through gorse and scrub down-on-their-knees and so on. A certain amount of screaming, too.

    Meanwhile, the other 50 or so of us stood and watched the police car speed off to Athletic Park. They had no interest in us whatsoever. Or at least not enough to warrant sprinting up a steep hill in heavy uniforms just to baton a few marchers. But shows the traumatic effect Molesworth had on subsequent protests.

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