Sunday, July 30, 2006

1981: Molesworth St

A few years back I was protesting one of America's wars (at this stage they have started to run together). We met at the cenotaph and were heading up to the American embassy - so we headed up . It was near dusk and I heard more than one person say 'Remember Molesworth St' - in the sing-song tone that particular chant is rendered. I found it distinctly unnerving

For those of you for whom the phrases 'the tour' 'the field at Hamilton' and 'Molesworth st' mean nothing, I'll provide some facts. In 1981 the South African rugby team came to New Zealand, breaking an international supporting boycott, which New Zealand had signed up to. Muldoon, the New Zealand Prime Minister of the time, was a misogynist, racist, homophobic, fuckwit of a man and he refused to stop the tour. In New Zealand the 1970s had been a decade of protest and mobilisation, and there were many, many people, who were prepared to fight the Springboks presence here with everything they had.

I think a lot of the questions about 'why?' haven't been answered yet, and while everyone from the Listener down is prepared to give the simplistic answer (it was a generation gap, it was town vs. country, it was all about hating Muldoon), actual research will be needed to provide the actual answers. But it is indisputable that there were a lot of New Zealanders who cared passionately about stopping this particular rugby tour.

One of the things that impresses me most about the anti-tour movement is their stamina - the Sprinboks were in the country for six weeks and at least in Wellington there were bi-weekly big protests, with meetings, advertising, and all the other stuff people have going on as well. I can imagine how exhausting, how unrelenting that would have been, particularly in days when you couldn't advertise anything by e-mail or text message.

So the night the All Blacks played Taranaki in New Plymouth 2,000 people met at parliament in Wellington. They were going to the South African embassy (there are a lot of Embassies in Thorndon) and walked up Molesworth St. The police drew a line and pulled out the batons - a 16 year old girl was hit on the head 5 times, for wanting to march up the street.

The police's role upholding the power of the state was pretty stark during the tour. Geoff Chapple tells of one police officer on that baton line taking down then baton and telling the protester 'I wish I wasn't here. I don't want to be here.' There are always individuals who maintain some sense of self and decency, even in a structure which is designed to take that from them. But the police iin general knew which side they were on - and were prepared to use batons to the head on teenagers walking up the street.


  1. Anonymous10:56 am

    You fail to mention the violence directed to the police and other members of the public by the protesters & certain individuals of the anti tour movement. If you were in NZ at the time of the tour you would have been too young to know what was going on. I suggest you stick to commenting on issues you know about. It was a very unplesant time for most people. While I was opposed to the tour I was increasingly uneasy about the manipulation of people and the issues surrounding the tour. Many people who were caught between their own beliefs, and the increasingly violent & nasty protest movement. I was in the 6th form that year, I can still remember my english teacher informing my class that if any of us played rugby or in any way supported the tour we would NOT be accredited UE, and that we may also be prevented from sitting the external exams. While this may have been an empty threat it was and still is a totally unacceptable statement to make. This is just one example of many threats made by the "anti tour movement" to many people in this country. I can remember many of my friends feeling compelled to make stromg anti tour statements for fear of being labeled a racist or failing exams, being excluded from entry to university etc. the list could go on and on. It is about time the "anti tour movement" acknoweledge their part in the violence that went on and then this sorry & sad issue in our past can be laid to rest.

  2. Anonymous3:25 pm

    What is your problem. This blog is in the public domain....If you want to have public opinions & views then you have to be prepard to accept that other people will want to have their say. NZ is a country where we have freedom of speach.

    ts a fact that Maia would have been too young at the time to know what was going on during the tour, and from what she has written I believe that she knows very little about it. Or what she knows are the glorified "war" stories from people who were there, I have to put up with this from my older bro & sis who were at vic at the time and involved with the protests, who like to tell eloborate stories about their daring deeds during the tour...but they have forgotton the disharmonay thrir actions caused within our family, the abuse towards an uncle who was in the police, friends & family who disagreed with them. My family was not alone in this many of my friends were in similar situations.

    Many people I was at school with were against the tour, most of these people became increasingly uneasy about the whole situation, from the actions National government of Muldoon to the tactics used by the "anti tour movement". We had nails and broken glass spread across the sports fields at my shcool... The people who did this were violently abusive towards those of us who objected to this happening. In fact their language is the same as yours. I for one do not believe it is acceptable to use violence as a tool of protest, and it is certainly not acceptable to use the threat in serious injury within the school environment.

    As I said earlier this was a very sad & distastful time in our history. there are very few people from any side of this time who have any right to feel pride in their actions. there was more wrong on all sides than right.

  3. Anonymous5:46 am

    Still acting like a fuckwit Millsy - I am surprised that you haven't threatened to line anyone up against a wall cos there will be blood on the streets if people die on the floor of A&E's throughout the country.

    Pwesonally I think the cops did a great job keeping the protesters safe - if any of he rugny heads hadgot a chance at then then there would have really been blood on the streets...andsome of those anti tour werw looking for a scrap and deserved to get baton charged.

    Funny how two of the most vocal blog critics of NZ in the 70s and 80s are both immigrants (English and a Canadian) who never actually lived here then

  4. I cant believe that 25 years after the tour there are people who are still discussing the tour and treating the actions of protesters as if they are heroes. The abuse & violence of the anti-tour movement towards anybody who in any way disagreed with them was incrediable. I myself went from being anti-tour at the beginning to going to the test match in Wellington just to spite people i knew who were protesters

  5. Anonymous11:08 am

    I think that you guys are being very immature. people are allowed to express thier opinions and this is an important event in New Zealand's history that should be discussed. If you disagree with 'Milsey's' opinions then don't read them. The events of the Springbok tour hurt alot of people as they tried to express their opinions and by opposing people's opinions, you are acting the same way they did, just on a much smaller scale. :) bibi

  6. Anonymous12:16 pm

    okay, ummmm.....hi. My name is, well you dont need to know what my name is. I dont have an opinion on capitalism because i dont know what the heck it is. So sorry for wasting your time. Thanks for having me. Bye.

    PS: Find an expert.

  7. Anonymous9:23 am

    heyro people the language here really is appalling! seriously i mean there are more words in the dictionary than f*** and you all need to start using them!