Today I went with a friend to a counter demonstration against the Right Wing Resistance. The counter demonstration was called Rally against Racism and about 100 people ranging in age from children with their parents through to people in their sixties and seventies. By contrast about 30 members of the Right Wing Resistance came to the rally and were dressed in black uniforms – black trousers, shirts, boots, caps and ties. One could have been forgiven for thinking that they were members of the wartime Waffen SS, the elite fighting force commanded by Heinrich Himmler.
The Right Wing Resistance was first set up under the name “National Front” in 2004, though such groups would have existed for sometime before then. The leader of the National Front, who is the leader of Right Wing Resistance today, was at the time Kyle Chapman. He claimed that he had hundreds of supporters. At the time there was a large protest against the presence of the National Front, which was organised by cultural groups across Christchurch. For a couple of years the movement grew, before declining because of internal fracturing of the leadership. During 2009 Mr Chapman was in Wellington where he was part of a rally, and was linked to the founding of a new chapter in Christchurch.
I found today’s demonstration by the Right Wing Resistance to be disturbing. They have rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech like everybody else does, but today’s protest exhibited several signs that the older generations who remember World War 2 and its aftermath, would have found upsetting. The first is that there actually are groups of hard line right-wing people in New Zealand society who believe that a tolerance of diversity is somehow dangerous and wrong for New Zealand. The second is their ignorance of history, which was amply shown by their use of Nazi salutes and their reputation for intimidating behaviour, as evidenced at the 2011 general election where a meet the candidates meeting in Christchurch was disrupted by a group of members from the R.W.R. The third and final aspect that is disturbing is that some of the members have criminal records. Kyle Chapman was sentenced to jail for the fire bombing of a Marae several years ago.
No doubt Christchurch and New Zealand will hear more from right-wing groups such as Right Wing Resistance in the future. The group plans to stand numerous candidates in the 2013 local government election cycle and have in the past registered as the National Front for the purpose of contesting the general election. They have every right to do so, as long as they abide by the rules governing elections in New Zealand and show due respect to the other candidates.
Contrary to what the R.W.R. will tell you, New Zealand ethnic groups – European, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Latino, and so on can live in harmony. The question is, does the R.W.R. want to live in harmony?