Keith Ng - Token Asian, Wellington

Sunday, October 24, 2004

This is a special Fighting Talk guest post from Salient news editor Keith Ng:

The Joys of Civil War Reenactment

I had a stopover in Madrid about two years ago. Having just arrived in the middle of winter with a tan and a safari shirt, I wandered around like a complete chump. There was a bit of commotion after lunch, with loudspeakers and helicopters, so, naturally, I decided to investigate.

Turns out, it was the anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. And every year, on that day, the Fascists and the Anarchists would come out for a bit of Civil War reenactment, with a little less historical accuracy, and a little more street-rioting whoop-ass.

When I got told this afterwards, I realised I was pretty damn lucky to have been chasing the Anarchist rather than the Fascists, who probably wouldn't have taken very kindly to a chumpy Asian tourist taking photos of them smashing windows.

I was thinking about this on Saturday, while chasing the mob outside Parliament:

Black shirt + black jeans - hair = Fascists
Black shirt + black jeans + balaclava = Anarchist

It was all a bit confusing.

Up until that point, it had been spectacularly boring. The Police had a big barrier down the middle of Parliament, separating the National Front and the usual Socialists/Anarchists/Generic-Hippies. The verbal broadsides were vicious:

"Nobody loves a fascist! Not even their mothers! Your mother doesn't love you! Your mother doesn't love you!"

Skinhead taking photos of a cross-dressing hippy: "I'm going to send this to Gay Weekly!"

And that was the good part. Most of the time, they were just sitting around waiting. They didn't pay me much attention, either. One of the NZ flags hit me in the face, and the NF guy immediately apologised - overlooking the symbolic brilliance of striking down an Asiatic invader with the symbol of their European heritage.

One NF member did tell me, however, that he was going to shut down my P operations. My mother will be pleased to know that I'm cooking *something* for myself.

The Police had relocated the NF by the time the ~800-strong Multicultural Aotearoa march arrived (some 80 minutes after they started from Te Papa). At least they weren't wearing black. However, the distinction between middle-class liberals and balaclava-clad revolutionaries seem to have been lost on some people.

Of course, when the lynch-mob formed, it was obvious that the hacks (myself included) were going to abandon the nice speeches.

I missed the most violent bit, when the pounding(s) actually took place, but what happened afterwards was still pretty alarming. Here was Cale Olsen, Central Rep for the NF, blood dripping down his face.

He was surrouneded, had abuse hurled at him from every direction and was spat on. When he tried to escape, a wall of people would stand in his way, jeering at him, screaming insults at the top of their lungs.

While he wasn't physically struck again, he was being lynched.

He was confused, injured and frightened. The mob kept hounding him. They followed him down the road, with people trying to pick fights, tauting him ("not so tough without your friends now?"), and the constant barrage of "Nazi scum!". He was defenceless, and they knew it.

One woman came to his aid. In hindsight, I wish I had done the same. Eventually, he was led to safety inside the Law School. The man guarding the door asked the people chasing Olsen to back off. One replied: "But he's a fascist!"

Outside, the chanting continued for a while. I talked to a leftie that I knew to be fair-minded, intelligent and generally a pretty nice guy. When I asked him how he felt about it, he was silent for a very long time. "I don't feel sorry for the guy," he said, but he wasn't sure about how he felt, and would have to think about it some more.

I love mobs.