David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

They were everywhere - a first-person account of the TPP protests

There wasn't a single Kyle Lockwood flag to be seen.

Above the crowds protesting the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement were plenty of the current New Zealand flag, the tino rangatiratanga, United Tribes flag and the Mana Party banners. But not a single fern on black, blue or red.

Inside the SkyCity Convention Centre, the champion of the alternative design - Prime Minister John Key - signed the deal. Outside, angry but peaceful crowds roared their opposition.

It was a different protest to that usually seen in central Auckland.

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While the protesters did march Queen St, they marched everywhere else as well.

Normally, there's one group. Today, they were everywhere. In the central city at lunch hour, there were as many as six intersections blocked off at once. It didn't speak to the size of the crowd but the organisation and intent behind it.

Maximum disruption was the objective, and largely it seemed to be achieved. From a tactical perspective, it was clever and effective. The protest brought central Auckland to a halt, and did so in many different places.

There was no way the roving groups were going to be effectively cordoned and pinned to any one area. Groups of up to 300 people would descend on an intersection.

"Sit down! Sit down!" came the shout from the marshalls. Down they sat, traffic stopped and backed up along the connecting roads.The bamboo tripods made it a difficult prospect for police, should they have intended moving people.

Perched atop the tripods, the protesters would be in a precarious position. It would be a keen cop who tipped someone on their head from that height.There was the odd place where a bit of police muscle was used.

Those who blocked the Cook St motorway on-ramp got moved but it was a fairly gentle removal, compared with some protests in previous years.

In fact, that was typical of policing across the city.

It was open-hand law enforcement - no imposing batons, riot helmets or shields in sight. There were manners - "Could you please get down from the bus shelter?" "Sorry boss," came the reply as the masked protester clambered down.

"Thank you," said the officer.

They watched the protesters and the protesters vented.

The atmosphere was carnival, the mood angry but focused.

It wasn't directed at anyone in sight. It was directed at those out of sight, signing the agreement in the air-conditioned cool of SkyCity.

They wouldn't have heard a thing.

- NZ Herald

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