Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hey There John Key, Raising Kids is Working! Lively May Day Protest.

Members of Waitemata Unite , the Service and Food Workers Union, Occupy Auckland, Mana Waitakere,  Feminist Action , The Auckland Women's Centre, Citizens Against Privatisation, The Water Pressure Group, the Home Birth Society, and other unionists and community  members gathered together on May Day, International Workers Day;  to celebrate the work of Mothers and to protest against the Social Security Amendment Bill which  will require mothers who have a child on a benefit to be available for paid work when their baby is just 12 months old.

The gathering at Aotea Square, and the pram parade up to WINZ Queen St was  the first of actions around the world  in support of the Global General Strike called by Occupy Wall St.
Although the strike was largely symbolic at this point, it acknowledges that our labour (whether paid or unpaid) is our power, and that if we withdraw our labour for long enough, and get organised;  we can bring the capitalist system to its knees.

Several women spoke about the importance of mothers being able to raise their babies and not be forced to give them up to day care;  and of the need for recognition of the valuable work the mothers do.

  About one hundred Mothers , grandmothers and activists with   small children pushed strollers with babies and teddies up the street, leading the other  protestors and unionists carrying   colourful banners and placards. We sang  "Hey there John Key, Hey there John Key, Do you hear? Do you hear? Raising kids is working , Raising kids is working, Is  that clear? Is that clear?"  (to the tune of Frere Jacques). Chants included: " Calling mothers, calling children, Join together, Join your union" and "Welfare Rights are under attack, Stand Up Fight Back."

At WINZ  a delegation  went up the path to the foyer and asked to be allowed to go in for five minutes to give teddies to the children (who often have to wait for hours with no toys to play with)  and to give some flyers to the beneficiaries about the latest welfare changes.  However Hilda Rash , the manager of WINZ Queen St, a policeman and a security guard , would not let us in. One woman was eventually allowed in without any flyers   but was grabbed extremely roughly by a policeman when she tried to tell the people in there  about the protest outside. She suffered painful cuts to her hands. Many of the protestors were extremely upset about this violence towards a peaceful protestor; and upset in the first place  about  not being allowed  into a public building.

At about 2.15 pm  protestors  from the foyer joined with those  on the street  to  tell them what had happened, and some more people  addressed the crowd. The last speaker, Hone Popata,  encouraged people to join the  Aotearoa is not for Sale Hikoi which was on its way to Wellington (and which included another welfare protest in Wellington  a few days later). We ended  with more chants led by Hone:  "Community rights are under attack , Stand up fight back,"
"Babies' rights are under attack, Stand up Fight Back"
and a call -response
"I say "Wahine", "You say "Toa " "
"Wahine'  .."Toa"   'Wahine'....."Toa"
'I say "Tama"  "You say "Toa" "
"Tama'.... 'Toa"

The whole event was filmed by Redstar on live stream and can be viewed here:

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