ANZAC Day protests

Alison Mau write about: Anzac Day – a time for protest or quiet reflection?

Free speech versus the right to a peaceful commemoration of our sacred day. Which one to choose?

The video of 12-year-old James Broome-Isa’s tirade against the protesters at the Wellington Cenotaph on Anzac Day was hard to watch. Visceral, even.

I don’t like critiquing people’s parenting, and I won’t in this case. I know I would have looked with patience and perhaps with pride on a child of mine who’d offered their considered opinion in that situation; after a minute though, I would have called a halt to the shouting and ushered the child away. That’s just me.

And I get where James was coming from. I’m amazed and warmed by the way Kiwis have embraced Anzac Day in the past couple of decades.

Here, we see young people marching with the veterans in solemn pride, wearing the medals of their grandfathers and great grandfathers.

The amazement part is because it wasn’t a

New Zealand RSA President BJ Clark told me it’s been much the same for a couple of generations of Kiwis; no-one was taught the history of New Zealanders at war for a long stretch (it’s worth noting that the New Zealand Wars still don’t figure on the curriculum).

Now the young people are leading the way, he says; the swelling crowds at 268 Anzac Day ceremonies around the country are a direct result of educating young Kiwis about the sacrifices made by their ancestors.

Should we be condoning protest on Anzac Day, then? Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clark says no. Politics has no place on that day, he says, or at that place.

“Our place,” is how he repeatedly referred to the Cenotaph. Our day. A day to remember those killed in wars across the world.

The protest in Wellington was silent and mild, for sure, but more particularly, he says, this is a day for returned service people to remember those they served alongside. Those people do not need the distraction of a protest on their day of remembrance.

Clark admits though, that protest and the right to speak our minds is exactly what generations of Kiwis have gone to war to protect. He mentions this several times, and understands that, well, there’s the rub.

Yep, there’s the rub.

When I initially saw the young guy admonishing the protesters for it being inappropriate on ANZAC Day I agreed.

But when I thought more about it I found that I also agreed with the right of the protesters to peacefully make their point, whether I agreed with it or not.

ANZAC Day has changed a lot over my lifetime. My father was one of the younger returned servicemen when I used to go on marches and sit through speeches at the town hall, then went home not to see my Dad for the rest of the day. But he’s been dead for 17 years, and there are very few of his fellows from the RSA still alive.

Those who have served later have been allowed to participate. Vietnam vets were contentious but were eventually deemed to be deserving of recognition too.

Why not also commemorate the civilian victims of wars? Often many more of them die and suffer than soldiers, and they are largely innocent victims.

Peace protests and conscientious objections have also been important aspects of wars.

Whether I agree with their message or not peaceful and respectful protest should be an acceptable part of ANZAC Day events. There is no set definition of what should be said or done, and nor should there be.

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  1. Oliver

     /  30th April 2017

    As a veteran myself I think that ANZAC day is the most appropriate day to protest against violence. To me ANZAC day is a day to remember the fallen but also a day to remind ourselves of the stupidity of war. And I think protesters remind us how stupid and ugly war is. For those of you who think that war is necessary, remember this fact. No wars were won on the battle field. Always wars are won and lost at the negotiating table. Peace.

  2. Geoffrey

     /  30th April 2017

    I am seriously disappointed with the words chosen to express your doubts about how ANZAC Day should be observed and whose sacrifice might be recognised. I think the term “largely innocent” is the key issue… What does that actually mean? Does it mean “partly to blame or perhaps partly innocent”? Why are civilians less guilty than soldiers? Are soldiers more guilty than civilians in obeying the lawful dictates of their Government? If so why?
    Are the people who elect the governments that put others in harms way equally as traumatised by their actions as those who did their bidding?
    War is a nasty business. It should be avoided whenever possible. But, when a nation decides to go to war then those who serve, those who do the hard yards, can never be regarded as being less innocent than those who directed them.

    • ” I think the term “largely innocent” is the key issue…”

      Most civilians are entirely or almost entirely innocent.

  3. duperez

     /  30th April 2017

    There is no set definition of what should be said or done yet a 12 year old boy is to define it for us?
    His perspective is valid but are his definition and perspectives any more valid than those of the protestors he protested against? His style was obviously different than theirs but the irony is that his concern seemed to be about respect.

  4. Nelly Smickers

     /  30th April 2017

    Meanwhile, as Wayne sez… still get these sad *SAS wannabe’s* turning up 😡

    By the look of the gut, most of the medals would have the added citation…..*and Bar* XD

  5. Gezza

     /  30th April 2017

    Like PG I pondered my reactions to that protest. There was an element of rote to the boy’s diatribe. He would have a child’s understanding of the situation, or possibly his dad’s.

    I honour the fallen & the wounded fighters on Anzac Day, partly because, like many, although I know & deplore the geopolitical history of the alliances & causes of WW1, I am mindful, saddened, & respectful, of the terrible loss & / or change forever of kiwi soldiers’ lives in that mechanically industrialised slaughter Anzac Day itself came about to remember.

    And partly because my dad was a soldier in WW2 – remembrance of the losses of even more of our soldiers during which was added to Anzac Day, after the same Empires repeated the same human catastrophes, in even greater measure – in part because of the geopolitics which ultimately arose due to the retributive actions & other policies of that first world war’s victors. Without those, who knows – there may have been no Hitler & the Nazis? And maybe even no war with Japan.

    New Zealand was not really directly threatened by any country in WW1, so it used to bother me when younger why we ever let our young men go off to far flung places overseas to be slaughtered in it. But then I reasoned out that we used to be British, so of course, once Britain’s alliances dragged them in to a European war, our boys men had to go too.

    The second war was different. We were threatened from the outset by the Kriegsmarine & then the Japanese Empire. And the horrendous nature of those two ruthlessly cruel, expansionist, exploitative regimes necessitated their defeat & destruction.

    For me, Anzac Day is primarily about remembering our dead & wounded soldiers in all the wars we’ve sent them to fight in. For me, it’s not about mythologising or glorifying them, or praising our former or current military – a fine line I think sometimes gets crossed.

    But I do respect our Defence Forces personnel, especially the ones who do the hard yards, & appreciate that they too are always there on Anzac Day, actually having the leading role in respectfully remembering all our dead & wounded soldiers, sailors, aircrew, & all military & those serving men & women who also fought with or supported them, & those who cared for our wounded.

    And if someone wants to make a quiet & respectful protest to remind us of the countless millions of civilians who have died in all these awful wars, let them. I acknowledge them too, but that’s not why I attend the parades.

    I spent some time looking closely at our memorial this year. It’s a wall style memorial. The centrepieces are 3 large, rectangular metal plaques commemorating the dead in The Boer War, World War 1, & World War 2. They are set in a long, recessed, rectangular section of the main wall. I couldn’t help noticing that, on either side, there is the exact amount of space required for two more.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2017

      But the protestors were protesting about the civilians allegedly killed by the SAS, as Nicky Hager stated. That’s why the young boy was angry. It was not the time or the place for that protest.I didn’t see him as saying things as if he’d learned them by rote. It was a political protest, and Anzac Day should be apolitical. The Cenotaph is not the place for such a protest.

      I certainly learned the history of WWI and WWII at school, and we learned about ‘the Maori Wars’ even at primary school-Hone Heke and the flagpole was an image that stayed with me, for some reason. I don’t know how BJ Clark can say that the wars were not taught-how old is he ? I remember hearing about the Boer War and how khaki became the uniform then. At primary school we heard about how the WWI armistice was signed at 11 am on 11 November.

      What an ugly, jarring ‘word’ critiquing is. It’s really saying criticisming, as critique is a noun. Why not say criticising, if that’s what you mean ?

      • Gezza

         /  30th April 2017

        If I can just pirate a few paras from this article, I think it covers my view as well, Kitty:

        “Anzac Day is about New Zealanders, not Afghani civilians. Although few people would quibble about a wreath in memory of all the civilians who have died in the big nation conflicts, the protesters wreath was about six civilians who died in still disputed circumstances. It was a political statement about the New Zealand Defence Force and the Government on a day set aside for pride in our service people and in our country.  

        Without James’s eloquent little rant, the wreath-laying might have caused some mutterings and complaints but the wider media would probably have turned a blind eye to what was really a bit of small fry, blatant propaganda. But on a day when nothing much was happening, mouthy little James gave the protest exactly the charge it needed.

        One obvious rebuke to people like the Broomes, who want to ban protesters from propaganda exercises on Anzac Day, is that the war dead fought for freedom and the right to speak your mind. I’m not sure the average serviceman or woman would have cited such noble reasons to justify their participation in the fight but it’s worth remembering that the first thing that goes under totalitarianism is free speech. If you want a present day example, just look closely at recent events in Turkey which have many parallels with Nazi Germany.

        But to come back to the protests. What in the end did they achieve? Broome and his son managed only to breathe much needed life into a fairly routine protest by the usual suspects. They managed to ignite a debate about free speech which I’m sure was not their purpose.

        The actions of the protesters also seem futile. They registered their interest, so to speak, but probably alienated many people who might have been sympathetic to their cause. Their gesture was preaching to the converted and would not have changed anyone’s mind. If anything it was an exercise, like many protests, in self indulgence.”

  6. “Those who have served later have been allowed to participate. Vietnam vets were contentious but were eventually deemed to be deserving of recognition too.” WITH RESPECT, those with service after WW1 did not ever need or require permission to participate in ANZAC Day ceremonies. They had earned that right by participation in War or warlike situations to which they had been sent by the lawfully elected Government of the day representing the will of the majority of New Zealanders. It is trite bur also true that soldiers do not make the wars, the politicians elected by the people, do so.
    Finally, your remark about Vietnam Veterans is offensive but I consider that was caused by bad wording, not disparagement, but if you meant it in a negative sense then more’s the pity.

    • Poorly worded. As I remember it the inclusion of Vietnam vets was controversial.

      • Certainly never eve rby the Veterans. It was the labour politicians like Goff and Clark and the Far Left Liberal clique who continued to demean those Veterans until Labour realised how much anger there was about the lack of recognition of the Veterans. It is obvious that the negativity continues to this day in some who think that hatred of war and its consequences is a monopoly for the Peace Movement which is a lie. All soldiers who have had active service know that it is not a game to be played lightly and understand the costs. They do not expect to glorify war as seems to be claimed by the extremists. We understand too well the morality of the Conscious Objectors and the Peace Movement but are disgusted with the continuing attempts to demean the concept of Freedom and Service like the Burnham Operation communist antagonists.
        Talk is cheap when some one is claiming the moral high ground.

  7. Zedd

     /  30th April 2017

    I think protest has its place.. but not always in the face of those, who have another view sez i&i

  8. Missy

     /  30th April 2017

    I am torn by the protesting on Anzac Day. I agree that they have the right to protest and don’t want anyone to start dictating when and where, but in my view it was an inappropriate time and place, but that is a personal opinion. The kid, in my opinion, acted inappropriately as well from what I have read.

    The irony of the kid is he was doing exactly what many on the left try to do – stopping someone from expressing their view point because it makes them uncomfortable, or offends them, not to mention drawing more attention to the protestors.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th April 2017

      He said that the protest should have been on another day-as a political protest, it was not the place or time to hold it. The bloodied poppy was also inappropriate. Anzac Day is a specific occasion and it should not be hijacked for political protests of any kind.

      The Cenotaph is the wrong place to make a statement about Nick Hager’s allegations in his book, and this is what these people were doing. I would not like to see Anzac Day’s remembrances being broadened so that its real meaning is lost.


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