They gathered in their hundreds in Taupo Quay just before noon — men, women, boys, girls, even a dog.

At midday they began to move. They walked, they were pushed in strollers, they drove, they rode motorbikes, they were carried in a canoe, they were pushed in wheelchairs, but they all had one thing in common — they were marching against the violence we used to call "domestic".

Friday's White Ribbon march attracted a huge crowd ready to travel the distance between Taupo Quay, along Victoria Ave to where crowds were gathering at Majestic Square.
There they were waiting with food, drink and a stage for the guest speakers.

A police car turned on its lights and started the march. Behind it was a small group of City College students and the Mayor of Whanganui, Hamish McDouall, bearing a banner proclaiming the purpose of White Ribbon.


Behind them, in no particular formation, the rest followed — and there were plenty of them.

At the back, the Harley-Davidsons of the White Ribbon Riders and a V8 hot rod preceded the last police car.

Officials directed some of the traffic out of the way but the streets remained open, drivers finding themselves moving against the tide of a marching mass of humanity.
People stopped on the footpaths to watch, some not knowing what was happening.

As the marchers arrived at Majestic Square, they stood aside to allow the White Ribbon Riders room to ride on the space in front of the stage and park their motorcycles, manoeuvring the heavy machines into line.

As the last engine notes died away, the proceedings began with kaumatua John Maihi offering a karakia, after which the organisers introduced the Mayor and called him to the microphone.
"Looking out here, I see a community that really cares, that understands this kaupapa and is here supporting it," he said.

He singled out community groups gathered in the square and greeted them before speaking about White Ribbon and the reason everyone who was there. He spoke directly to the young men and women, urging them to respect each other and never offer, nor be ready to receive violence.
"It's not respectful and it certainly isn't masculine."

There were other speakers, including some representing the White Ribbon Riders.
Dressed in black and adorned with tattoos and facial hair, they made a formidable sight on stage, their bikes parked below them.

Their message was that even those who have made mistakes before can turn their lives and thinking around and learn that respect for women is a strength, not a weakness.

Some of the marchers make their way up Victoria Ave. PICTURES / PAUL BROOKS
Some of the marchers make their way up Victoria Ave. PICTURES / PAUL BROOKS