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We doth protest too little: making a stand is a human right, regardless of age

We doth protest too little: making a stand is a human right, regardless of age

OPINION: My first appearance on the evening news wasn’t the proudest moment for my mum.

There I was in the first frame of the opening shot, waving a sign on Wellington’s Lambton Quay and bellowing a protest chant, flushed of face and awash with righteousness.

More than 26 years later I still remember the excitement, the battle cry and the pride in making my stand.

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New Zealand has a long history of protests such as the Springbok Tour protest march in Nelson in 1981.

Even if it was for the chickens.

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I was 14 when I stood outside the then-Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on a school day to protest the de-beaking of battery hens, a process as barbaric as it sounds.

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I was volunteering at the Kāpiti SPCA when I got wind of manager Hans Kriek’s protest plans and begged to join in.

Kriek was firm, I could take part if I had my mum’s permission; not only for the peaceful protest but for the likelihood of arrest.

I abandoned hope almost immediately. Mum was strict and, perhaps suspecting the devious plans already forming in my teenage brain, Kriek would speak to her himself. No faked permission note would work here.

Mum didn’t give me her blessing but she gave me permission so I stood up, wasn’t arrested and made the news that night. I had something to say and briefly, I was heard.

I was proud of myself at the time but all these years later I’m just as proud of my mum.

About ten years ago I stood on another picket line, this time with my own children to protest a circus’ use of an elephant called Mila.

Springbok Tour protest march in Nelson in 1981.

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Springbok Tour protest march in Nelson in 1981.

It was my daughter Hannah’s idea and I helped them make their signs – one of which resembled a large grey sheep – to call for Mila’s release.

Years later we joined another protest, Hannah took the day off college and I took a day off work to stand in the cold and be counted. This time it was for pigs and we were heard again.

Here’s the thing: the protests might change but the right to protest doesn’t, no matter your age.

Craoghead Diocesan School students (back row) Baljeet Kaur, 14, Breanna Sutton, 17, Amy Xie, 17, Olivia Mackenzie, 17, Isellah Gordon, 17,  (front row, from left) Lucy Steinmann, 14, Ruby Lake, 14, and Zoe Walker, 15, show some off their signs they'll be protesting with at Friday's Strike 4 Climate Change event in Timaru.

​ELEANOR RARITY/STUFF

Craoghead Diocesan School students (back row) Baljeet Kaur, 14, Breanna Sutton, 17, Amy Xie, 17, Olivia Mackenzie, 17, Isellah Gordon, 17, (front row, from left) Lucy Steinmann, 14, Ruby Lake, 14, and Zoe Walker, 15, show some off their signs they’ll be protesting with at Friday’s Strike 4 Climate Change event in Timaru.

If you’re marked as truant, who cares? It isn’t a real protest unless you’re sticking a finger in the eye of authority.

My mum let me stand up because I believed in what I was standing up for. When it was my daughter’s turn I stood beside her.

In the end, the chickens kept getting their beaks cut off, the pigs are still in cages but the elephant was set free.

I reckon that was worth it.

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