Around 1000 pro-Palestine protesters gathered at Aotea Square in Auckland’s city centre this afternoon to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Dozens of Palestinian flags were seen among the congregation, which included Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and MP Ricardo Menendez March.
The rally began walking down Queen St to the US Consulate on Customs St shortly before 3pm today.
A large police presence was also monitoring and chaperoning the march down Queen St, which completely closed the street.
Chants of “shame” arose from the crowd every time speakers at the event referenced the recent US veto of the United Nations’ ceasefire resolution.
The United States vetoed a UN resolution on Friday backed by almost all other Security Council members and many other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
The crowd also chanted: “Ceasefire. When do we want it? Now.”
A stage was set up near the Queen St side of Aotea Square with a “Free Palestine” banner featuring both the Palestine flag and the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, also known as the national Māori flag.
Protesters were seen taping images of Palestinian children that have been killed in the conflict to the glass entrance of the US Consulate.
Police cordoned off Customs St between Commerce St and Queen St.
The rally began at 2pm in Aotea Square, before the group marched along Queen St towards the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ office.
Posters for the protest described it as the “biggest for Palestine in NZ history”.
“Bring your keffiyehs, flags, whānau, friends, kids, neighbours, workmates, banners and posters,” a post by the Palestinian Youth Aotearoa group to social media read.
With the war now in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,400, the majority women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.
Most recently, Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip in a relentless bombardment, hitting some of the dwindling areas of land it had told Palestinians to evacuate to in the south.
The strikes came a day after the US vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, despite its wide support.
Gaza residents “are being told to move like human pinballs — ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival”, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres told the council before the vote.
Earlier this week, a senior Labour MP accused Israel of carrying out genocide in Gaza in a heated Parliamentary debate regarding Government support for a ceasefire during Question Time.
Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters put forward a motion calling on all parties involved in the conflict - including countries with influence in the region - to “take urgent steps towards establishing a ceasefire”.
The motion was supported by all parties, but debate drew some heated discussion and proposed amendments from the Green Party and Labour that it better recognised the loss of lives, including over 16,000 in Palestine and about 1200 in Israel, and called for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” rather than “steps towards” one.
Labour’s associate foreign affairs spokesman Damien O’Connor said what was happening in Gaza was “nothing more than a genocide”.
The UN’s Guterres invoked a rarely used article of the UN charter - described as the most powerful tool he has - to warn of the “severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza” and urged the Security Council to intervene.
It is the first time this power has been used since Guterres became secretary-general in 2017.
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.
- Additional reporting by AP.