Peaceful protest underlies the importance of democracy. Recently in New Zealand, there has been a trend for protests to call on the government to make fundamental changes to legislation.
On 11 April, the Postgraduate Students Association led a peaceful protest to call for the government to reintroduce postgraduate student allowances. On 6 May, thousands of people went on strike for teenage suicide awareness and called for the government to fund suicide prevention and mental health funding. Finally, there are protests planned for 18 May against racism in response to the recent Christchurch attacks, as well as a second Climate Strike protest to call for change.
The argument behind using these examples is to illustrate the extent to which peaceful protests can provoke change; the New Zealand government has promised to reintroduce postgraduate student allowances and increase funding for suicide prevention. With peaceful protests, we can call for accountability from our government and create a world that we want to live in. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
However, with the number of strikes and protests increasing, we must question whether striking and protesting will still have the same impact. Because most of the recent strikes in New Zealand were in relation to budget cuts, we must question what the most pragmatic solution is to create the change we need. While the nurses striking in 2018 and early 2019 received a higher pay increase and other benefits, the teachers planning to strike at the end of May will not likely see the same outcome because funding has dried up. For a fair and just world, sometimes it is us the people who need to create non-governmental organisations to make change. Regardless of whether it is fair that we have to make the change, it must occur for the greater good.