Monday, August 17, 2009

Some early protests against the war.

Photo 1: Auckland 1964

Photo 2: Wellington 1964

Photo 3: Roadside picket at Huntly, 1966 during the visit of Saigon Air Vice Marshall Ky ("Hitler my hero") whose motorcade was due to pass.

Photo 4: Auckland, Myers Park, 1968 or 1969.

The Run-up to Albert Park

In the two weeks prior to the Liberation of Albert Park (September 7th & 14th 1969), there were protest marches from Myers Park to the Civic Administration Building and then to the Central Police Station. The marchers were protesting about the politically motivated police raids of activists'(mostly PYM)homes and Progressive Bookshop.

The photo shows one of these two marches (hence the reference to searching homes).
The placards about Ho Chi Minh reflect the fact that Ho died on September 3, 1969.
Ho Chi Minh led the Vietnamese resistance to Japanese invasion in World War II, after the war when the French colonialists returned to Viet Nam he led the struggle against France for independence, which culminated in a massive defeat for France in 1854. The Geneva peace agreements which followed resulted in the temporary division of the country into North and South - with elections for a unified government to be held in 1956. However the US puppet regime of Diem refused to hold the elections, so the war of independence began again - with increasing US involvement. Ho remained the leader of North Vietnam and an inspiration for the National Liberation Front fighters in the South.

Whilst the war still raged when he died, by 1968 "corporate America" (as Chomsky puts it) had realised the US could not win the war, and secret efforts were being made towards a peace agreement. These were well in train by 1969, but were sabotaged by Nixon and a group of influential Republicans who knew that a Democrat led peace would mean Nixon would lose the presidential race. The result was that the war raged for another 4 years, millions died, the US attached Laos and Cambodia, carpet bombed North Vietnam and lost thousands more US lives.

Ho Chi Minh was much more a patriotic nationalist than a communist. In his "final testament" he wrote:

"All my life, I have served the Homeland, the revolution and the people with all my heart and strength. If I should now depart from this world, I would have nothing to regret, except not being able to serve longer and more. When I am gone, a grand funeral should be avoided in order not to waste the people's time and money."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Albert Park Photos

Pictures - Albert Park week 2 - 28.9.69

Albert Park, second week. 2,000 people took part.

Liberation of Albert Park

Liberation of Albert Park

September this year marks the 40th anniversary of the "liberation" of Auckland’s Albert Park as a free speech area, on September 21st 1969. An event with bands and free speech is planned for the afternoon of September 20th to celebrate the anniversary. Everybody is welcome!

Historically, in Auckland, Myers Park near the top of Queen Street was dedicated as the "free speech" area. However, if you wanted to use a speaker system the City bylaws required you to either get a permit from the Council or go under the motorway viaduct in Victoria Park.

For a number of years before 1969 Vietnam protest marches would begin at Myers Park, and the annual Hiroshima Day marches ended there. By 1969 the tide of public opinion internationally was turning against the US led war on Vietnam. Protest movements were growing all round the world as the reality of US military action, including the use of chemical weapons and defoliants, was becoming known. Regular protests marches and other protest activities were being held throughout New Zealand.

Around the middle of 1969 Sunday speaker forums began at Myers Park, and a little while later these events were joined by the Frank E Evans Band, with a pattern of music and songs interspersed with speakers.
On September 7, 1969, a march was launched from Myers Park in protest against a series of politically motivated police raids on houses and flats occupied by Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) members, as well as the Progressive Bookshop. The raids were supposedly in search of firearms and explosives, in a scenario that was effectively a scaled down version of the so-called "terror raids" in Ruatoki and elsewhere more recently (where the police seized on a grain of evidence and invented a mountain). That march went from the park to the Civic Administration building and up to the police station. Mainly as a result of plain clothes police provocations within the march, quite a few people were arrested.

The following week a far larger march (estimated to be around 2,000) re-traced the same route. The police stayed well clear and there was no "trouble".

On September 21 the usual Sunday event took place, until spontaneously the crowd of several hundred moved out into Queen Street complete with the band (but minus the piano). There was no clear direction, but we skipped down Queen Street to Vulcan Lane, where some of us (fearing the police would close of the Lane and move us on) urged the crowd to carry on to Albert Park. We scrambled up the hill to Albert Park and took over the area around the band rotunda. The band settled in the rotunda, a red flag was tied to the top, and we carried on as before. The police arrived but did nothing. At the end of the day we resolved to return to Albert Park the following Sunday.

In the intervening week the threats from Auckland City Council (ACC) began. The use of Albert Park was "illegal" and would not be tolerated according to ACC councilors and officials. Even more people turned up the following week, and the events continued to grow, with the same mix of music and speakers, as the ACC continued to threaten us with legal action. The crowd peaked at around 8,000 people on October 10th.
By this time even the media were mocking the ACC, which backed down and declared that Albert Park could be used for a "free speech" area, but that organised events and use of speaker systems still required a permit (provisos that we continued to ignore anyway).

This was one of several free speech victories against the Auckland City Council in that period. In mid-1970 the ACC passed a bylaw (at the request of the Queen Street Business Association) declaring that no more permits would be issued for Friday night protest marches. According to the city "fathers" we were frightening away Friday night shoppers. A collective of activist groups such as PYM, the Auckland Committee on Vietnam, the Peace Council, CPNZ and others decided to have a march every Friday night until the ban was lifted. The marches began on June 5th. Police provided ACC with names of those participants they identified at the first march, and eleven people were summonsed to appear in court. However, after over a month of weekly "illegal" marches the ACC rescinded the bylaw and withdrew charges against those summonsed.

A short time later the ACC attempted to enforce bylaws requiring a permit to be obtained before leaflets could be handed out in public places. This ban was met with a series of mass leaflet distributions in the inner city, and again the Council backed down.

Albert Park continued to be the scene of Sunday forums for a couple of years after 1969, as well as the launching site for quite a few spontaneous protest marches. Even today, 40 years on, it is occasionally used for protest rallies or meetings – so it is worth remembering that this was made possible by an action of mass civil disobedience.

Remember – September 20, 1.00pm – Albert Park

Also, Display at Auckland City Central Library - launch 1pm, Saturday September 19 - 3rd floor.

If you want to contact the organising group email:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some pictures from 1968


I am intending to use this site to record and exchange information, memories and assessments of the Auckland Progressive Youth Movement and activities against the Vietnam War and other issues during the 1960's and 1970's.

I would love to hear from other former members and activists of the period, find out what you are up to, and get your views about the movements we were part of. My gmail address is

I aim to put up some photos and recollections in the near future.

Also, this September is the 40th anniversary of the Liberation of Albert Park - when we started the train of events that forced Auckland City Council to allow the park to be used as a free speech area. There will be some activity. See my later posting.