Saturday, May 23, 2009
Thousands take direct action to cross Auckland Harbour Bridge
Thousands of Aucklanders defied Transit and Police barriers and took direct action to cross Auckland's Harbour Bridge. Socialist Aotearoa talked to one of them, environmentalist campaigner Tane Feary.
Tane, what were today's protests about?
Action was taken for cycle and pedestrian access to be made available on the bridge to have access to the North Shore. Other people also had signs protesting the SH20 Motorway, and it was a huge symbolic protest of the transport policies of the current National-Act Government.
How did the direct action begin?
The cycle group had talked with the police beforehand to take care of safety concerns, and they were negotiating with the head of the NZ Transport Agency, who was refusing to listen to what the public wanted- access across the bridge. The Agency had made a fence to block public access across the bridge, and once it was apparent that negotiations were going nowhere, people voted with their feet and walked around the ends of this barricade. The first people were told to go back, but then people started chanting "Let Us across!", five bikes charged across. Then more people started going either side of the barricade and the police line melted away.
What did it feel like?
The mood of people as they crossed the bridge was estatic, enthusiastic. A sunny day, people feeling upbeat, people feeling their own power and that they could control their own bridge. Heaps of kids and families, many on bikes. Others on unicycles and skateboards, a real party atmosphere.
Do you think the turnout represents some kind of sea change in the mood of Aucklanders?
It's very clear that people are willing to take action to change the transport direction of Auckland city. The mood was one of not being told what to do by bureaucrats and motorway lobbyists. There was a large mix of people who were interested in other issues outside of cycling advocacy and sustainable transport- examples including people who are opposed to the new State Highway 20 through Mount Albert which will destroy people's homes and disrupt a community.
After the march, people were very keen on knowing where to go next, where to take this energy for change. The Hikoi tomorrow and the upcoming protests organised by the SH20 Tunnel or Nothing community group will be one such outlet. And there's a protest on Wednesday morning 8am May 27th outside SkyCity Convention Centre in Federal Street But there's also talk of taking the bridge again next Sunday.