Posie Parker is no-longer returning to NZ but some of her supporters still plan to protest at the court hearing of Eli Rubashkyn, Michael Stevens asks when is a protest worth it, and when does it just throw petrol on a fire?
That’s a question that activists sometimes have to consider. And it’s worth considering as we go into the election.
If you haven’t heard of Posie Parker (Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull), she claims to be a “women’s-rights activist” but she is basically pedaling trans-hatred, and her supporters include some in the radical neo-fascist right. She had actual neo-Nazis attend her rally in Melbourne, performing the Nazi salute.
She says she can’t control who turns up to her rallies. But you have to ask yourself, what you have if you are sitting down at a table with nine Nazis? The answer is a table of ten Nazis.
Her last appearance in Auckland was drowned out by a crowd of noisy but largely peaceful protestors – a couple of thousand of them. Sadly, one protestor went too far and was prosecuted for assaulting a 71-year-old Parker supporter. Violence is never okay.
Largely, Parker was mocked and made to look a fool. Especially by the actions of the famous tomato juice-throwing activist, Eli Rubashkyn. Parker’s supporters at first thought she was there to support them – they hadn’t realised that she is intersex and opposes their views.
Eli herself is up for a court hearing about the incident, and after some reflection, many of Eli’s supporters have decided not to protest outside the court. Presumably, they don’t want to inflame the situation and give more ammunition to their enemies. That can’t have been an easy call to make.
I believe that, in general, political protests are a good thing. They are a right we in democracies take for granted. Public protest is outlawed in many countries – we’re lucky that we can if we want to, make our views heard.
The Springbok tour in 1981 was the scene of our largest public protests. It’s hard to convey now just how big they were. They were organised, they had radical elements in them, but they were mostly ordinary Kiwis disgusted by apartheid, and the work done through those protests was valuable.
Protest is one of the tools to bring about social change. We queers wouldn’t have got our rights without it. But it is only one form of activism and just one of the forces for social change. Sometimes behind-the-scenes lobbying and working with supportive politicians can accomplish just as much, and the most effective activists can move between both spheres successfully.
‘Pick your battles. is an old piece of advice. Activists have to consider when expending all that effort – will it benefit the cause, lead to a stalemate, or even a weakened position. Sometimes it is better to wait.
There is no doubt that there are many reactionary forces at work today. Their current target is trans people, but they are not allies to those of us who are same-sex attracted either, make no mistake. And they are getting bolder.
As the election nears, keep an eye on what is being said by parties and signs of supporting this sort of message. It can be subtly coded references to sex education or ‘the family’ or more blatant and bigoted language. The assumption is that LGBTIQ+ people tend to vote in a block – and to vote left – but that’s really not true. There are lesbians who vote NZ First, gay men who support National, and trans people who back ACT. We cover the whole range. But it’s wise to look closely at what and who lies behind the messages.
Perhaps now is not the time for protest, but it soon could be.