A protest organiser in Masterton has welcomed uniformed members of a white pride group wanting to march in the town against child abuse.
Mother-of-five Liz Rikiti and Amanda Dette had organised a Justice for Moko march in Masterton on Monday, June 27, the same day as the Rotorua High Court sentencing of Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa, a couple who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Moko Rangitoheriri, a 3-year-old in their care tortured to death over a two-month period.
Vaughan Tocker, a Masterton scrap worker who heads the Right Wing Resistance in Australia and New Zealand and claims to hold the rank of lieutenant-general, said the group will stand shoulder to shoulder with protesters later this month, marching against child abuse and "Islamisation" that permits violence against women and marriage to children.
He earlier told the Times-Age he had personally experienced the effects of abuse in his life and that he "speaks from experience. Nobody has got more right to talk about these things than me".
"I've been through it, my family got put through it. I've seen what happens first hand. I tell you, sometimes I get scared too, but we have to stand up and eventually New Zealand will come to love us."
Before yesterday, Mrs Rikiti had known nothing of Mr Tocker or his group, she said.
RWR members dress in black military oniforms and oppose state asset sales, the Trans Pacific Partnership, Muslim immigrants, and Chinese investment in New Zealand.
Mrs Rikiti had read the Times-Age story outlining the RWR's plans to join the march, she said, and was surprised at the incendiary online reaction against the group and its stated aims.
"That's actually the first I've ever heard of the guy. I didn't really understand what he believes in, and then I read everyone's comments online."
Gabrielle Connor posted to the Times-Age Facebook page that Mr Tocker and his group "represent nothing but hate. You are marching for all the wrong reasons."
Debbie Carmen said the RWR was "using Moko, his death, and the protest march against his death as a public relations exercise. Despicable".
Juliet Qualtrough posted: "Hate to say it, but when I read the article earlier I questioned if I wanted to be involved in the march alongside these people."
Mrs Rikiti said organisers had encouraged parents to bring their children to march "because it won't be a big, aggressive protest that could get mouthy or anything", and she remained unbowed despite the digital outrage at the RWR plans to join the protest.
"We could lose people but it is an open, public event. Their group sounds quite outspoken but on the day we don't want to have our focus taken over," she said.
"The more people the better but it's got to be safe and can't start turning in to anything other than that.
"It is a public event and our main goal is to get awareness of child abuse out there.
"We're definitely not saying they can't join because this is for all of us. As long as they leave prejudice out of it and others put aside their personal opinions, everybody should be all right."
She was happy to talk with Mr Tocker about ensuring an effective and unified protest, and said RWR members were free to wear their uniforms while marching.
"What they want to wear is a huge part of them, and who they are. Which is the same for all of us," she said.
"Rotorua has Mongrel Mob coming from all over New Zealand to march with them and on that day they wear what they want."