Go and read Chris Trotter’s sad and forlorn postÂ aboutÂ Saturday’s failed protests, there is aÂ definiteÂ air of resignation that time has moved past protestors:
â€śThat one was clearly a lot bigger than this oneâ€™s going to beâ€ť, I commented, looking around the little square and registering how empty it was. Others seemed to share my sense of embarrassment at the low turnout, self-consciously lining the sides of the square.
The first of the â€śAotearoa is NOT for Saleâ€ť protests, on 28 April, had attracted up to 8,000 people, but it was already clear that last Saturdayâ€™s wasnâ€™t going to be even half that size.
I had feared it would be so. The law enabling the partial sale of the state-owned energy generators has been passed (albeit by a single vote) and the Governmentâ€™s $120 million promotional effort is about to begin. Many New Zealanders, though deeply opposed to the sale of Mighty River Power, mustâ€™ve heard about Saturdayâ€™s protests and asked themselves: â€śWhatâ€™s the point?â€ť
And so the drums started beating, the marchers chanted â€śPower to the People!â€ť, and the ragged column of 2,500 to 3,000 souls began itâ€™s slow trudge up Queen Street. I looked around me and saw the multi-coloured union and political party flags fluttering, and the hand-painted banners bobbing up and down. (The best I saw read: â€śNew Zealand: 51 percent pure â€“ 49 percent for sale.â€ť). â€śWhoâ€™s got the power?â€ť Someone bellowed. â€śWeâ€™ve got the power!â€ť the marchers bellowed back.
I lifted up my eyes and the gleaming towers of the banks and finance houses seemed to lunge towards me: BNZ, AXA, Deloittes, ANZ, National Bank: giants of glass and steel standing like sentinels along the length of Queen Street. I wondered how impressive we looked from those top floors. Did the financiers, looking down, see a torrent of angry humanity pouring through that narrow canyon like a river in flood? Or did they see a line of scurrying ants: too tiny and remote to merit more than a dismissive sneer?