November 29, 2021
The legal right to peaceful protest is an important part of our folklore but it does not, and never has, included the right to break the law, engage in violence, mayhem and property destruction. We have seen all of these in the growing intensity of anti-vax rallies and protests but it is not a new phenomenon. We have seen this mindless behaviour many times as the ill-informed and rebels looking for a cause deliberately create mistrust, fear and havoc in someone else’s peaceful protest.
We saw it with the anti-apartheid riots associated the 1981 rugby tour of New Zealand by South Africa. Then there re were gang members, gay liberation activists, feminists, National Front members in army camouflage fatigues and other miscellaneous ratbags taking the opportunity to highjack the protests for their own agendas which had nothing whatever to do with South Africa or apartheid. There were also some who were fighting just for the hell of it and others looking for the thrill similar to vandals and graffiti artists doing something mildly unlawful and not getting caught.
We also saw it with opposition to American nuclear armed and powered warships visiting New Zealand, French nuclear testing in the Pacific islands and the war in Vietnam.
All of these protests were started by people with a genuine concern for themselves and others around them. All also had a high degree of logic, commendable good intentions and a basis of high principle. They were good causes, regardless of whether we agreed with them or not, and they were initially legal and non-violent. Sadly they were all quickly highjacked by less well-intentioned and often criminal camp followers looking for any opportunity to further their own causes.
Today we have the same mix of underworld social misfits joining the anti-vax fray and the same pattern is unfolding in the growing illogical and violent opposition to any and all forms of protection against Covid-19. In recent weeks we have seen several unrelated causes and agendas being added to every new anti-vax protest. The Tino Rangatira flag and the Rainbow Community flag, along with the colours of several gangs and almost every other lost cause in the country wave over the shouting crowds. Among them also are the usual collection of superstitious or dishonest prophets of doom maintaining their public profile so they can keep taking money from their gullible supports by spreading the most outrageous mis-information. This time also there are some sinister international extremist groups. It seems it is some of these people who are deliberately creating havoc and inciting violence.
It is important to note that the designer of the Tino Rangatira flag, Ngati Toa and Ngati Hikaro have all distanced themselves from the lawless behaviour which is placing their people a risk.
The violent protestors may not realise it but they are following a predictable pattern older than civilisation itself. Mankind has always needed something to fear or fight, from ancient sabretooth cats trying to eat them to religious oppression, wars, political intrigues or economic depressions. There has always been hardship or difficulties of some kind and we are hard wired to battle something or someone even if it is only the next-door neighbour with a noisy lawn mower or smoky incinerator. These petty disputes can often take on major proportions but, if there is no enemy immediately in sight, it is not difficult to create one.
When it comes to tilting at windmills and other imaginary foes or threats some of these clowns coat tailing on the antics of the misguided anti-vax brigade the make Don Quixote look like Mother Terresa and it is most often the innocent who get hurt, arrested or both.
If only they realised that we have a genuine and deadly enemy right in our midst which is killing people again and they could and should be directing their intelligence and energies to fighting it and not each other.
When these protesters come to court judges have the difficult task of finding a balance between the rights to peaceful protest and our laws against violence and destruction. They have an even more difficult task deciding between the legal right to refuse medical treatment and the equally important right to employment if getting a Covid-19 vaccination becomes a condition of the job. Our current laws were not written to cover this serious issue and perhaps we need new laws to clarify a specific mandate for this and other treatments in the future to protect the public from transmitted disease in some occupations. That however must never remove the freedom of people to refuse vaccination but they must know and accept the consequences of that decision. Violent protests do nothing for their cause, as ill-informed as it is.