AN ACTION-PACKED two days of protest left Whanganui doctor Chris Cresswell impressed with the restraint of New Zealand police.
Dr Cresswell was one of 12 from Whanganui who were in Auckland on Thursday to protest the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and one of eight who continued on to Waitangi on Saturday.
In Auckland, the action started at 9am in Aotea Square, then moved to the area around the Sky Tower where the agreement was to be signed. Organised by Real Choice, groups of protesters moved to disrupt traffic at intersections in the area.
One group with people "more intent on disruption" held up motorway traffic at the major "spaghetti junction" for three and a half hours, Dr Cresswell said. There was no violence or direct physical confrontation, and he was proud of a Whanganui woman in that group who helped keep it calm.
The police there didn't confront the protesters or try to drag them away.
"They allowed people to protest in a peaceful way. The police were incredibly restrained, which I thought was very mature and clever of them."
Non-violent action worked better, he said.
"I think we are going to draw more people in on peaceful action than we are with aggressive action, so I think it's definitely the way to go."
Later that day the TPP Action Group organised a larger protest. It started at Aotea Square with about 2000 people and swelled to perhaps as many as 20,000 as it looped around the Sky Tower and then down to Victoria Park.
Two days later, near Waitangi, Dr Cresswell spoke at a gathering in Paihia that included politicians. Then he and the Whanganui group joined a hikoi of about 500 who had walked from Whangarei and finished at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It felt very special and very peaceful to be at the Treaty Grounds on that day, Dr Cresswell said, though for him a sense of hope was mixed with frustration and anger over the agreement having been signed.
Overall, he said it was good to have Maori and Pakeha activists working together "for the good of the country".
His hope is that, with two years and a election before the agreement has to be passed into law, it will not be ratified. There were seven laws that would have to be changed under it, he said, including copyright laws and investor state dispute settlement measures.
The protesters that mainstream media talked to at the weekend seemed to know little about the TPP, but those around him were not like that.
"The ones I talked to were very well informed and knew the risks to our country. We need to ask ourselves what sort of society we want to live in. Do we want to improve our society and environment, or do we want to follow down the path of inequality, environmental damage and violence that we see in the United States?"