Around 100 people marched down Queen Street to the Hilton Hotel to protest against the NZ-US Partnership Forum. The forum, which brings together representatives of the two governments as well as from major US and NZ corporations to work on tightening the economic and political links between the two nations, was moved in the last minute from the Auckland Museum to the Hilton Hotel.
The protests had begun earlier in the day with a picket at the road corner by approximately 20 people, during the time Prime Minister Helen Clark arrived at the forum. The main march began at Aotea Square at 12 noon, with protesters taking the street, setting off flares and chanting all the way to the Hilton. Upon arrival at the Forum venue, a stand-off began with the police. After a short period, a scuffle erupted when the police attempted to open one lane to allow vehicles to enter and exit the area, an attempt which succeeded despite some resistance from a number of people. Some time later the police made a decision to open the remaining lane and force the protesters onto the footpath behind plastic barriers. In the ensuing altercation, three people were arrested and several injured.
The protests highlighted a number of issues. Our World Is Not For Sale spokesperson Ryan Bodman stated that the results of a free trade agreement between the US and Australia have included “the degradation of environmental protection, particularly in relation to genetic engineering of food, the degredation of quarantine laws, an economic nightmare for small farmers and businesses, a huge increase in australia’s trade defecit with the us, reduced access to affordable Australian pharmaceuticals and threats to australian manufacturing jobs.” The same results and others can be expected if an NZ/US agreement is signed.