Northlanders Sue Bradford and Tim Howard were involved in the 1981 Springbok tour protests. Forty years on the two activists recall the action for reporter Jenny Ling.
They put their lives on the line to condemn racism during one of the most divisive times in New Zealand history.
Memories of the 1981 South African rugby tour of New Zealand which polarised opinions and sparked widespread protests across the country are still fresh in the minds of Northlanders Sue Bradford and Tim Howard.
They were among 150,000 New Zealanders who took part in at least 200 demonstrations to oppose the Springbok tour which started in Gisborne on July 22 and finished at Eden Park on September 12.
Forty years on, Bradford recalls being arrested multiple times, knocked unconscious by police, and spending a cold and lonely night in a jail cell.
She was aged 28, living with her husband Bill in Auckland, and pregnant with their third child when she got involved in "anti-tour mobilisation" whose action squads were committed to maximising disruption at rugby matches.
Bradford was part of the Biko squad, named after activist and founder of South Africa's Black Consciousness movement Steve Biko, who was murdered while in police custody in September 1977.
She protested twice a week during the 56-day tour and attended several weekly meetings with like-minded Kiwis who believed playing sport with South Africa condoned its racist apartheid system.
"Because I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement for so long, I was very committed to taking part in actions before the Springboks actually got here right through till the last protest on the last match," Bradford said.
"It was a big chunk of our lives. It was as close to civil war in New Zealand as I've experienced in my lifetime.
"Every match day towards the end we were very frightened, we thought someone would be killed. Some of the police and some of the anti-protesters were out of hand beyond belief – the feeling was so strong.
"It's hard to describe how passionate people were and how divided the country was.
"Wherever you were people were divided, it was very intense, and it kept building."
Bradford, a former Green MP who lives in Taipa, was arrested trying to stop the Springboks leave their hotel on July 25, the day they were to play Waikato at Rugby Park in Hamilton.
She never saw the moment several hundred anti-tour protesters invaded the pitch, which caused the game to be called off for security reasons.
Instead, she was in a police holding cell "cold and lonely".
"It was a very cold, long day."
She also remembers occupying a television transmitting station in the Waitakeres which stopped a match from being broadcast that afternoon.
"Twenty of us got through security, and me and this guy got into the control panel of the transmitting station.
"We were banging every single button until the match stopped.
"Then we barricaded ourselves inside until the police came."
Those actions were a lot less dangerous than being on the front line facing baton-wielding police, Bradford said, though she did take part in a bit of that too.
As the tour progressed to Eden Park in September, she got caught up in the fighting, something that was "pretty terrifying especially when you're pregnant".
By that time, protesters were arming themselves with shields and sticks and donning helmets in a bid to protect themselves.
"Because I was pregnant it was quite dangerous being in the front lines.
"Earlier on I had been knocked unconscious by a policeman.
"I experienced some fighting toward the end, that was very full-on.
"A lot of us came away quite bruised and sore. But because I did a lot of direct actions I tended not to get hurt in those."
Those "direct actions" included breaking through security barriers at Auckland airport with a small group of other protesters and occupying an aircraft to stop it from flying.
That resulted in a High Court case; the first jury wouldn't convict the group, but the second did.
By now Bradford had given birth to her daughter, who was 2 months old when the second trial took place.
She believes she and the other defendants were given suspended jail sentences because she was a young mother.
Along with Trevor Richards and John Minto, Bradford was a founding member of the Halt All Racist Tours (HART) movement which campaigned against sporting ties with apartheid-era South Africa for over two decades.
Taking part in twice-weekly actions built solidarity and long-lasting friendships during the 1981 tour, she said.
"Things built up and the solidarity and commitment of other people we were protesting with was very strong.
"There was a lot of tactical thinking about how to carry out ethical protests, so we didn't bring the cause into disrepute by doing stupid things.
"We always tried to be thoughtful about what we did. We always wanted to make it clear why we were doing the protests.
"One of the lasting effects was some of the friendships made in police cells or on the streets or at parties after the actions.
"Some of those people I'm still working with now in community politics, because the bonds that were built were so strong."
TIM HOWARD was living in Whanganui at the time of the Springbok tour and was involved in social change education and activism.
The Whangārei-based community development worker, who currently works with Northland Urban Rural Mission, had already been involved in anti-racist actions during the 1970s.
Back then he was a young Catholic priest who was teaching at St Augustine College, and he quickly formed a small organising group to drive local activity during the tour.
He organised activities, stalls and educational events around town, which were quite different to the actions taking place in the cities, he said.
"Provincial New Zealand was quite different to the big urban centres," Howard said.
"Just up the road at Eltham, a tiny march through town opposing the tour got flour bombed and attacked.
"The atmosphere in provincial New Zealand was less liberal.
"People coming out and opposing the tour were courageous in doing so.
"It dominated New Zealand for three to four months in a very intense way."
Howard was also involved in protests in Wellington and Auckland.
"I remember Tim Shadbolt on the megaphone with his great sense of humour and very upbeat Shadbolt leadership style. They were fairly large street actions.
"I attended some open meetings at a Wellington organising group; they were crowded lively events.
"I was impressed with how well people got involved in organising actions, with the sophisticated planning, and with the natural leadership that had emerged over previous months within this anti-tour grouping ... and with the clarity of our values, our reasons for stopping the tour."
Soon after one of those meetings on July 29, the same day the Springboks defeated Taranaki in New Plymouth, there was an "eruption of violence" as protesters were brutally attacked by police on Molesworth St, outside Parliament.
It was the first time police had used batons on anti-tour protesters.
Howard's sister, who had been several rows back on the outside of the march, was caught up in the fray.
"The pressure from marchers behind pushed the front line forward then it swivelled, putting my sister unwittingly into the front line of the police.
"She got away disturbed but unhurt."
Howard recalls the day of the second test in Wellington on August 29 particularly well; it was on the day of his brother's wedding.
"At that stage, because I was to be at his wedding my mother wouldn't let me out of the house. She didn't want the priest to get arrested before the wedding at 4 o'clock."
Howard also remembers gearing up for the game in Whanganui on August 5.
Famous New Zealand writer Janet Frame, a friend of Howard's, was also involved in protesting on that day which saw the Springboks defeat their hosts 45-9.
Though 750 police were on standby, the peaceful protest meant there was minimal police intervention.
"A part of our committee was a group from the Quakers who were staunch on peaceful activism but were really creative.
"For the game we ended up with a spectacular display of revolving letters and different messages ... the strategy was about getting as broad involvement as we could."
Whether the protests were in provincial New Zealand or in the cities, the mission was one and the same, Howard said.
"Though the dynamics were different, we in the protest movement were all clear that it was untenable that the NZRFU (rugby union) and New Zealand could consider colluding with the rugby-loving apartheid regime of South Africa."