There have been some recent comments claiming that the current Anti Mandate protest in Wellington is not dissimilar to the Black Lives Matter protest movement that swept the world a couple of years ago.
Ben Thomas tweeted that the BLM protest in Auckland two years ago was an imported movement. Then on Radio New Zealand Kathryn Ryan in a heated discussion with Neale Jones suggested the same.
This got me thinking are these events comparable?
I went on the Auckland BLM march two years ago. I remember it clearly. It was just before the country left lockdown and there was a nervousness in the crowd about getting too close to each other, even though we were outside.
The march had a strong feeling of solidarity and respect. The organisation was somewhat hamfisted but that did not matter. It struck a chord and people responded.
The only sign of organisational nous came from Unite Union. As they always do they had printed a few billboards and had a banner and organised their supporters to be there.
We all walked from Aotea Square down to outside the US Embassy. Speeches were given then we all went home.
Advertising was through social media and there was no sign of any funding. As can be seen from the photo above many of the billboards were printed on paper and attached to cardboard.
The current Wellington protest is the antithesis of the BLM march.
For a start there is actual Nazi involvement. Kevyn Alp, someone who has expressed a desire for the guillotining of politicians, plays a prominent part.
Then there is the resourcing. Food trucks spontaneously appearing and handing out free food seems more than a little suspicious.
And the billboard campaign waged by Voices for Freedom is not cheap, nor is distributing 2 million pieces of information.
Voices For Freedom is the trading name of the not for profit organisation legally incorporated and registered in New Zealand having three directors and shareholders Claire Deeks, Alia Bland and Libby Jonson.
VFF is funded through individual donations from thousands of concerned Kiwis. Funding is put towards the various projects we facilitate and the general running costs and overheads of the organisation.
It appears to be a registered company. It says “we intend to provide basic information on finances such as to provide accountability and transparency at appropriate junctures and at least annually.” Maybe it has but I cannot find any such report.
One possible explanation for funding comes from this Vice article which reported on the hacking of the Christian funding website GoSendGo and the identity of funders of the Canadian Trucker’s protest. $8.7 million had been raised for the Canadian truckies with over half of the donors being US based with other donations coming from the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland. I would not be surprised if some of this funding made its way overseas. It would be helpful for VFF and the protestors to confirm the source of their funding.
And one protest was to oppose cruelty and ill treatment of people because their skin is dark. The other’s goals are disparate but include the complete removal of pretty well every public health measure as the Omicron wave hits. At a time when Ministers need to focus on dealing with the Omicron wave sucking up their valuable time with a discussion that will go nowhere is pretty strange.
I still struggle with the contrast in treatment. In the US this happened to BLM protestors:
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand police pick up and return the signs to the protestors and find them parking spaces.
Are they the same? They are both protest movements started overseas that have had local offshoots. But there any similarity ends.