Auckland Protest Breaches: Safety vs Sentiment

By Aroha Mane

Auckland's Black Lives Matter organisers and protestors are being criticised for breaching social distancing and public safety rules.

George Floyd's death has raised the issues of injustices at the hands of police. Both highlighting concerns that pose a loss of threat to lives.

It's a question of safety vs sentiment.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they have broken the rules, “New Zealanders have given up a lot and I need to keep asking the team of five million to stay together so that we can reach the finish line. I understand the sentiment but I cannot condone breaking the rules.”

National MP Paula Bennett says we should already be at Level One, “I think if people want to protest, that they should be able to but we need consistent rules that are fair for all and in that respect, I think that it's totally ridiculous we're having such restriction when people aren't abiding by them.”

In Parliament today there was a consensus that safety should have been a priority but for many of the Māori and Pacific politicians, the Black Lives Matter issue was close to the heart.

“The issue, the substance of the issue and reason why people are so passionate about what's happening in America is because many indigenous groups can affiliate to the issue, however, we're in circumstances that are unprecedented,” says Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta.

“I support the cause. For a long time now we've fought for recognition of injustices experienced by indigenous and Black Americans. Our plea is to the organisers is to abide by the rules,” says Minister of Civil Defence Peeni Henare.

“I think like anyone it's emotional, any injustices to anybody stirs up the emotion in people and that's the reason why people have responded and reactive in the way they have,” says National MP Alfred Ngaro.

This morning the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called for protest organisers to be prosecuted but the Prime Minister didn't agree.

“Ultimately those decisions around enforcement are for the police and I will stick to those provisions. I won't intervene on that.”

The "Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity" organisers weren't available for an interview today but acknowledged the concerns.

The team will be meeting today to address these issues and will release a statement tomorrow morning.