FLASHBACK: Nazis humiliated in Wellington, November 2004

The traditional-fascist National Front have recently attempted to hold meetings in Christchurch and Dunedin, New Zealand, protesting a fictional “white genocide”, which have been shut down by activist opposition. The following piece by Daphne Lawless originally appeared in the November 2004 issue of Socialist Worker Monthly Review (New Zealand) and describes a successful anti-fascist mobilization against the same group. It has been mildly edited for clarity. As a consequence of this defeat, National Front leader Kyle Chapman soon quit for “family reasons”, returning to Christchurch, and the National Front in Wellington shrank to a minuscule size. See also MCA’s original report from the day.

mca1Well over a thousand anti-racist protestors hit Wellington’s streets on Saturday 23 October 2004 to celebrate cultural diversity— dwarfing and humiliating the Nazi National Front’s rally on the same day.

Multi-Cultural Aotearoa (MCA), the coalition organising the march, was formed in response to racist attacks on Somali immigrants and desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Wellington. The group unanimously decided at a public meeting to hold a counter-march to a planned National Front rally against Asian immigration.

Started by a small group of anarchist and socialist activists, MCA quickly gained mass support in the community. The march was endorsed by the Federation of Ethnic Councils and representatives of refugee groups. The Wellington Seafarers’ branch of the Maritime Union acted as marshals, while the Association of University Staff and the Service and Food Workers’ Union also had banners on the march.

The crowd on the day was diverse and colourful. On the Stormfront web forum, Nazis condemned Multi-Cultural Aotearoa as a coalition of ‘Jews, commies and fags’, and there certainly was a diverse turnout on the march. Representatives from several ethnic and immigrant communities marched alongside “Fairies Against Fascists” and gays and lesbians promoting legalization of same-sex civil unions. The crowd was entertained by street theatre and a wide variety of speakers.

Estimates of the final size once the rally reached parliament varied from 800 (police & NZ Herald) to two thousand (Sunday Star Times).

This was to be the National Front’s big day, with their führer and Christchurch mayoral candidate Kyle Chapman declaring to his followers that it was to be “the greatest event in [the] NZ Nationalist Movement so far”. But in the lead-up to the march, the NF thoroughly embarrassed themselves in the public eye.

Photographs of National Front members giving the fascist salute and wearing swastikas were published in the major daily papers. When questioned about the photo, Chapman claimed that he had “no idea” what the people behind him were doing and that they had just “showed up in a car”.

Meanwhile, National Front secretary and main ideologue Kerry Bolton issued a leaflet claiming that MCA were a group of “left-wing scaremongers target[ing] ethnic minorities”. This included the hilarious claim that the National Front only attracted violent skinheads because of leftists saying that the National Front were Nazis!

Once it became clear how much support the MCA march was attracting, the National Front panicked. They dropped the anti-Asian focus for their rally, declaring it to be a rally “in defence of the New Zealand flag” at the last minute. Their tiny rally, attracting a few dozen dedicated fascists and skinheads, was held two hours before the MCA march was due to arrive, and was long gone by that time.

Despite their tough talk leading up to the march, the Nazis were obviously desperate to avoid any confrontation with the anti-racists which would reveal their true impotence. But they even failed in this.

While the MCA rally was hearing speakers at Parliament, word spread around the crowd that a group of National Front members remained at Wellington railway station. A section of the rally peeled off to confront the fascists.

“A National Front member threw the first punch and it was all on,” says an eyewitness. “Then they lost. A National Front car drove into and hit one protester, which caused a whole bunch of protesters to pull bits off the car.” Witnesses report that Kyle Chapman himself was in this car.

Three National Front members and two protestors were arrested. After the formal end of the rally, many protestors went to the Wellington police station to offer their support for the arrested anti-fascists. All in all, it was a wonderful day for racial tolerance and the power of protest. But there were also signs in the rally of how this campaign could be taken to the next step.

Some of the chants on the rally called for the freeing of Algerian political prisoner Ahmed Zaoui. At Parliament, many speakers pointed to Zaoui’s detention without trial by the Labour government as an example of state racism.

Other speakers drew attention to the way that ethnic minorities and Māori are used as “political footballs” in election year by right-wing politicians. There were banners protesting the foreshore and seabed legislation, and several tangata whenua speakers gave the lie to the National Front’s claim to be “pro-Maori”.

It’s vital that we continue the momentum that this march has built. Hopefully after this the Nazi National Front will be discouraged from raising their shaven heads for a while. But a real fight against fascism has to be based on a challenge to the system as a whole. We can’t beat fascism for good without a challenge to the worldwide system of exploitation and oppression which can unite workers of all races and nationalities.

We need a continuing anti-racist movement, building on its existing links with unions, ethnic communities and other grassroots organisations. Continuing the pressure for the release of Ahmed Zaoui would be a good next step in building this movement.

 

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