Protest changes things.
Our communities don't evolve and progress by sitting around, hoping for the best. Rarely, if ever, does change come from the top. Usually, it's the mobilisation of a critical mass of impacted people and their allies that forces change.
Change isn't particularly comfortable.
Those at the top of social and economic hierarchies don't tend to like change. It means shifting and sharing power. Change means self-reflection. It means the recognition of a cause or group that has gone without, if not been downright trampled over.
When you're accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression.
Aotearoa New Zealand's history is rich with protest for progress. As with most nations, we've blunted the edges and sanitised the retelling.
Many of the developments we're proudest of as a country, whether it's revitalisation of te reo Māori, affirming rainbow rights, standing against apartheid and nuclear weapons or even the century-old establishment of the welfare state, were typically pretty tense clashes. They didn't come easy.
These transformational legal and economic commitments didn't happen out of goodwill dished out by politicians. They never would have happened if protesters had relied solely on pre-existing "official" avenues for civil engagement.
In fact, the largest petition ever tabled in our Parliament opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In 1985, half a million New Zealanders signed on to keep rainbow communities in the criminalised closet.
So the protests continued. And in 1986, with the spotlight firmly on its conscience, Parliament passed the third and final reading of the Homosexual Law Reform Act. Yet the legacy of oppression persisted and it wasn't until 2018 that criminally-charged men - a number of whom had passed away - were finally able to expunge these offences from their record.
History shows us that those "official" tools are so often rigged against community calls for change. That pattern plays out in courtrooms, as multinational companies throw expensive lawyers at community groups fighting against encroachment of liquor outlets in their neighbourhoods or against natural resource exploitation. We see it in working-class activists like arborists Zane, Hannah and Travis being dragged through criminal proceedings for protecting native trees in a climate crisis.
Peaceful protest often involves putting your body on the line in pretty inconvenient places. The point is to occupy space and time. The point is to make a point. It's a spotlight firmly on the issue, and accountability for decision-makers neglecting their responsibility. It's to show the difference between what is legal, and what is ethical.
This past weekend, Waka Kotahi NZTA pre-approved the shutdown of two lanes of the Harbour Bridge for the #LiberateTheLane rally. In our climate crisis, the lack of safe cycling infrastructure to help people get out around without burning fossil fuels is making the simple act of cycling into a radical action.
For some reason, there was a half-dozen police blockade, which in turn created a spectacle of sorts.
Twelve years after people first rallied for safe cycling across the bridge, broken promises and subsequent lack of action, families, kids and advocates turned up to showcase the bridge's capacity to transport thousands of people free of private vehicles. The lack of push-back from local and central government and authorities was validly noted. Maybe we are now one step closer to achieving change.
We have seen police in riot formation at Ihumātao and a frequently present police line continues to observe tangata whenua occupying Waiheke's Pūtiki Bay/Kennedy Point.
These reflections serve not to undermine the importance of reducing transport emissions in a climate emergency, but to make obvious the importance of solidarity. The struggle for recognition of Te Tiriti is deeply connected to the struggle for climate action, which in turn is fundamentally connected to everyone's right to a liveable income.
Protest is the language of change falling on deaf ears and defunct processes. That change does not happen by sitting still and hoping those with the power come to the right conclusion. That's not how history has been made.