Politics | Protest

People for Palestine protest - and pray - at National Party conference

A protest outside the National Party’s northern regional conference in Auckland on Saturday by People for Palestine saw an unusual element.

A group of kura kaupapa leaders, who were having a separate conference at the Waipuna Conference Centre, asked if they could join People for Palestine for their morning karakia. Members of both groups held hands in a circle for karakia and waiata.

The protest action happened between 7am-10am and 12-2pm outside the centre in Panmure. The Palestine group was also joined by Palestinian Youth Aotearoa and other supporters.

At midday Te Ao Māori News spoke to Leondra Roberts (Ngāpuhi) who said she stood in solidarity with Palestinians as tangata whenua because of the shared experience of colonisation.

“I’m here personally as tangata whenua because I couldn’t stand up for my ancestors and now I have the opportunity to stand up for others who are suffering at a time where the need more help,” Roberts said.

The group is noted for its organisational skills - members have gone through extensive training, delegated specific roles, created media plans, assigned media liaisons, and researched public property borders to ensure they can peacefully protest successfully. Before this protest, one of the group leaders told protestors not to interact with aggressors and to avoid swearing or flipping off the police because it would lead to arrest.

Roberts also explained in their training a lawyer informed them that brown and black people were targeted more by police because they’re seen as dangerous and they had to ensure they were protecting the Indigenous people in their rōpu.

At the event, police tried to push them back but one of the organisers provided evidence they were on public property and they continued. The police explained that if they were to cross the boundary, they would be arrested, but the group was well-educated and aware.

What we want is for them to enforce the ceasefire that they’ve called on for Israel and, in order to enforce the ceasefire, they need to sanction Israel. As partners in the UN, we have an obligation to uphold international law, so what we want them to do is have military sanctions, political sanctions, and economic sanctions on Israel, to enforce the ceasefire.

—  Leondra Roberts, People for Palestine

The group also wants the Israeli ambassador expelled from Aotearoa, saying in a press release the expulsion would send a clear message to Israel that it would not stand quietly by “as genocide was committed”.

The media statement also quoted Palestinian New Zealander Yasmine Serhan: “Christopher Luxon is once again putting the National Party on the wrong side of history. As with the Springbok tour of 1981, the National Party is once again siding with apartheid and the oppression of an entire people.

“It is unfair to New Zealanders to be placed on the wrong side of history once again when we have democratically demonstrated through polling that Aotearoa New Zealand wants an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.”