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The violence and disorder on parliament grounds yesterday is something that we should never have witnessed in New Zealand – a country we pride ourselves on as being one of the best democracies in the world.
The fact of the matter is the terminal rioting we saw was as predicable as it was avoidable. It was equal parts arrogance and inaction that allowed these rioters to take advantage on the national stage. That fateful die was cast by the Prime Minister and every other politician when they refused to engage with the initially peaceful protest on day one – to expect any other outcome after that pact was signed is just plain ignorance. The simple fact is they all got it badly wrong.
The question that not one journalist thought to ask the Prime Minister during her press conference was “wouldn’t this violence have been avoided if you had just engaged with the legitimate protesters on day one?”
It was easy for the Prime Minister to instead justify her inaction by blaming the remaining few hundred violent rioters for the entire past three weeks. But the problem is that is simply not true.
Last week I said that this would inevitably turn into something akin to the Springbok Tour if the government continued their refusal to engage – and it’s exactly what happened. One doesn’t need to be Nostradamus to have seen this coming, so either the government is totally incompetent or they knew this was going to happen and still did nothing.
It was their refusal to engage that allowed the nefarious violent groups time to begin seeping in from around the country in the first place and eventually take over the protest. In fact, the Police Commissioner stated in his address that in the last week he 'had seen a changing mix and make-up of the crowd. In particular, those with good intentions were now outnumbered by those with the willingness to use violence to affect their means.'
Let’s be clear, those few hundred rioters need to be held to account and no one should try to defend their violent actions. But the mistake the Prime Minister is making is attempting to label the entirety of the protest, the thousands that turned up at parliament, and the hundreds of thousands around the country who supported it, all as a bunch of violent conspiracy theorist deplorables. That mistake has been made before.
Perhaps if she or one of her cabinet colleagues had the courage and sense to listen to the original legitimate protester’s concerns, not only could this violence have been avoided, but they would also know that the vast majority who travelled from around the country are actually ordinary kiwis who just wanted the government to listen.
Unfortunately, the ultimate outcome could be that the actions of these few hundred rioters may well have caused the wider public to lose both sympathy and sight of what the original legitimate protest was all about.
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