Several thousand New Zealanders across New Zealand took to the streets over the weekend to protest against the Government's GCSB and TICS Bills.
The spying legislation has been criticised by internet activists, business people, and technology and privacy watchdogs for its wide scope and its potential to harm New Zealand's online economy.
Protests took place across the country today, with the Auckland one starting just outside of the Town Hall building in Aotea Square. The protesters were a hodge-podge mix of New Zealanders – there were serial demonstrators, ageing hippies and those with long-held political agendas – but there were just as many business people, young professionals and ma & pa Kiwis that the Prime Minister touts as his mandate.
Politicians, career activists and infamous pirates/digital folk heroes were present to speak to the crowd on the same delta where only two years ago the remnants of the Occupy Auckland movement were camped. Kim Dotcom spoke of a new era of digital heroes, including Bradley Manning (responsible for leaking diplomatic information to Wiki Leaks) and Edward Snowden (who revealed the extent of the US PRISM programme).
Some people were content to just test out their costumes for Armageddon amongst the crowd.
There were plenty of parents in the crowd giving their kids their first protest experience. One the way to the protests I was walking behind a father with two girls, he was telling them he hoped it would be a packed protest otherwise it wouldn't be any fun. Has civil disobedience been gentrified?
Eventually the demonstration transformed into a march, taking off down Queen Street towards the American consulate office on Custom Street. The police had cordoned off the left side of the road for the protesters, but both sides were enveloped within the first 100m.
Journalists, amateur photographers and snappers somewhere in between (including myself) lead the march in an attempt to document what was happening behind – there was attention a-plenty from the media.
Young, old, black and white marched side by side down Queen Street, waving flags (mostly of red).
Auckland Mayoral candidate John Minto was appointed the lead chanter. He had a few choice rhymes rehearsed and written down on cheatsheets.
A few curious onlookers observing from a Queen Street high rise.
All in all it was a very peaceful protest (with some sharp language). There was anger in the crowd, but overwhelmingly there was a sense of disappointment towards the Government. Still, there's always those with high spirits – "Sweet bro".