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Herald on Sunday, Auckland, 22 November 2009
Protesters march on city
By Kieran Nash
Thousands packed Auckland's Queen St yesterday to protest against the Government's refusal to back a citizen-initiated referenda over the so-called anti-smacking law.
A 50-year-old man was charged with disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest after trying to rush those who spoke to the crowd later in the march.
But otherwise the "March for Democracy" had a carnival atmosphere -- among an estimated crowd of more than 4000 were drummers, parents with children, and placards.
They had responded to a call to protest against the Government's refusal to act on August's $9 million referendum asking New Zealanders whether smacking should be illegal. Eighty-seven per cent of people who voted said it should not.
Full-time mum Rachel Turner attended the march with two of her six children.
"I think that I'm a loving parent -- if I give them a light smack on the bottom I don't want the Government to come into my home and say I'm a criminal for that.
"When 87 per cent of people vote for something in a referendum then the Government should be following through with that."
Aucklander Colin Craig, who funded the march, said the cost ran into "several hundred thousands" of dollars.
Craig and his wife Helen - who have a daughter - own a string of firms that manage high-rise apartment buildings.
"We've made a brilliant start and I'm waiting for the next step," he said.
The march started in Fort St with songs by Yulia Townsend and former New Zealand Idol Ben Lummis, who said he was happy to support the cause.
The crowd then swarmed into Queen St in a march that took over an hour.
They waved placards with slogans such as "Warning: Police State" and "We've been 2 Hell 'n' Clark". Others chanted messages such as "John Key listen to me, we want democracy."
Stanmore Bay businessman Stephen Hobbs said he was there to support "democracy".
"If the referendum asks for something it should happen. There's no point in ignoring it.
"In New Zealand at the moment we have a country being run by minority groups."
Hobbs said New Zealand had a "PC system" that was "frightened to step on the toes of minorities".
But one bystander, who did not wish to be named, said the march was "a joke". "It's funny they've brought their kids along as if they want to be smacked.
"I think they don't understand the law - it's to protect the kids that are getting smashed, not those that are getting a light smack."
About halfway along Queen St, representatives from groups including Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust halted the march and roused the crowd into applause.
Among the speakers was Act Party MP John Boscawen. "It's a huge crowd, it's fantastic," he said.
He said Prime Minister John Key was "not listening to 1.4 million people", and said he ignored them "at his peril".
Former Green MP Sue Bradford, who drafted the original bill, said future New Zealand societies would look back in amazement at people marching for the right to hit their children.
She was not surprised by the turnout because of the money spent on it. But she said the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
A spokeswoman for Key said the law would be changed if it was not working. "We have seen no evidence it is criminalising good parents," she said.
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