If you're going to protest, then for goodness' sake know what you're doing.
The mess in Wellington can hardly be called a protest.
New Zealand has a proud history of protests, strikes and demonstrations.
Whether it's the 1951 waterfront strike, Raglan golf course occupation led by Eva Rickard in 1978, the 1981 South African rugby tour that polarised opinions and New Zealanders, the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed protest or as recently as the Ihumātao occupation. These protests brought thousands of New Zealanders out onto the streets. Each time rallying behind a single, just cause.
I was living in Auckland at the time of the Foreshore and Seabed demonstration in Wellington.
Early in the morning Theo and I were watching TV. Even at that early hour, it seemed that thousands of people were converging on Wellington. Responding to the call to protest, inspired by Māori leader Tariana Turia who insisted Maori must have the same rights as other New Zealanders.
In this case, to go to court to dispute ownership of the seabed and foreshore. I said to Theo, "this protest is history in the making, I wish I was there". "Then go," he said. And by 12 o'clock I was in Wellington.
It is the most significant protest I have ever taken part in. I will never forget it. I was proud to be there on the day.
The taxi could only take me halfway along The Terrace. "Bloody protesters," the driver complained, "causing chaos." Well, they would, because there were thousands of people.
Traffic was nearly at a standstill, Wellingtonians were advised to avoid that part of town.
As protesters, we were all there for one reason, and one reason only. To repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Nothing else. There was no confusion. That was the single, rallying cause. We knew who the leaders of the demonstration were. They were visible. They spoke and we listened.
All the signs and banners proclaimed Māori wanted the Foreshore and Seabed protected. We listened attentively to the speakers, cheered and clapped after each one and then just like that, by 3 o'clock, it was all over. We headed home. We had made our point.
Compare that with the current protest in Wellington, if that's what you want to call it.
It seems there are multiple issues, although stopping the vaccination mandate does appear to be the main concern. But even that's not clear, with various groups represented.
Is there a protest leader? I've watched and waited to see who's speaking for the protesters. Who has the credibility and mana to speak on their behalf?
No one, it seems, as far as I can make out. A protest always has articulate leaders to make sure everyone, not only those attending the protest but the thousands watching and listening at home, get the message too and understand why the protest is taking place; why the protesters believe in the rightness of their cause.
I haven't seen or heard anyone clearly putting the case for the protesters.
I don't even know if they have a leader or a spokesperson.
Without one a protest lacks credibility.
How can the public support a protest when we don't know what the protest is all about?
We're just guessing, making assumptions and getting impatient as the protest struggles on.
Protesting is more than a big get-together, more than a party. More than banners and slogans.
A protest must be meaningful. Clearly articulated so that we can share the struggle and feel part of it too. It's a call to action.
In Wellington, without a credible leader, the protesters appear bogged down. Just like the quagmire they have created in front of the Parliament building.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua District councillor and member of the Lakes District Health Board. She is also the chairwoman of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.