I attended the meeting that morning. I wish to remain anonymous and cannot speak out on social media for fear of being attacked [a lot of folks know that feeling —Eds].
Here follows what I witnessed by a young man who was part of the local iwi against a woman sitting in the back row.
The lady and her husband where sitting in the back row and the man was sitting directly in front of the lady. When he stood up to Haka, he shoved his chair hard against the lady’s legs using the back of his legs. She tried to push the chair off her legs but the man continued to force the chair against her legs. Their chairs were against the wall and there was no room to escape. The man continued to Haka and took over more space as he became more vigorous in his movements. I could see by the look on the lady’s face that she was being hurt.
There was a struggle for some time with the chair, between the woman and husband in the back row and the lady that was standing next to the man doing the Haka. She must have been the teacher that was mentioned in the Stuff report. The lady’s husband managed to pick the chair up and placed it on a vacant chair in front of him. It’s possible that when he picked the chair up and while he was trying to put it down, he may have accidentally knocked it against this person. I did not see that. But no chair was thrown at a student. The lady would have bruising on her legs because of the force used. The man was tall and stocky and was wearing a white shirt. It was his chair that was involved in the incident.
There were elderly people sitting on either side of the couple in the back row and also next to this man, who could easily have been hurt also. One man was in his late eighties and looked quite frail. I felt quite scared and I was worried that the situation would escalate. There were other people who witnessed this.
I heard the lady next to me say ‘why are they speaking in Maori’ to which I replied ‘Maori is an official language of NZ and Maori are allowed to speak their own language’. I did hear ‘casual racism’ from people who should know better. It’s complete ignorance and unfortunately common with some baby boomers. I did not hear the monkey comment and if I had, I would have spoken out. Since I read the Stuff article and the reported racism, I had wondered whether this incident was in retaliation, hence my subject line two wrongs don’t make a right.
The students mentioned in the Stuff article conducted themselves really well, so they should be really proud of themselves. I hope the students heard me remonstrate with the lady sitting next to me.
Learnings — I think that the four rows of chairs were placed way to close to each other. I think council need to come up with protocols around haka being performed in the chamber, i.e. for the performers to come to the front of the public gallery to perform it. The behaviour of a few people in that meeting was pretty poor, but the majority were just ‘jo averages.’