Go and read Chris Trotter’s sad and forlorn post about Saturday’s failed protests, there is a definite air of resignation that time has moved past protestors:
“That one was clearly a lot bigger than this one’s going to be”, 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 “Aotearoa is NOT for Sale” protests, on 28 April, had attracted up to 8,000 people, but it was already clear that last Saturday’s wasn’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 Government’s $120 million promotional effort is about to begin. Many New Zealanders, though deeply opposed to the sale of Mighty River Power, must’ve heard about Saturday’s protests and asked themselves: “What’s the point?”
And so the drums started beating, the marchers chanted “Power to the People!”, and the ragged column of 2,500 to 3,000 souls began it’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: “New Zealand: 51 percent pure – 49 percent for sale.”). “Who’s got the power?” Someone bellowed. “We’ve got the power!” 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?