Thursday, 8 March 2012

Of children and protests and taking the former to the latter

Port workers and their families on the picket line. 
Child holds placard saying "All my daddy wants is a roster".
On Saturday I will be going to the Rally to Save Our Port (4pm at Britomart for those not into Facespy).  I'll try to communicate my outrage at the union-busting tactics of Ports of Auckland management in an appropriate manner for someone who is part of the co-governance structure of POAL's inevitable owner (Auckland Council) in another post, if I can find a way. 

My children will be coming with me, and their father, to the rally.  I expect to see many other children there too, not least because at the heart of the issue of the Ports dispute is the impact of casualisation on families.

Wriggly and Snuffly are unlikely to be holding placards or chanting (neither can read and one can't talk) but they will be there and we will talk to them about what it is and why and see what the verbal one things and so on.

Part of my reason for taking the kids is to show them the possibilities of collective action, of standing up together with others, and give them experiences that are about challenging authority.  In time I shall possibly be the authority that gets challenged, but no matter as long as they are thinking critically. 

But the main reason they are going, and the main reason most small children who go to protests are there, is because I simply cannot participate unless I can bring my children with me.

Do I think that Wriggly and Snuffly understand precisely the cause and the chants and the speeches flying around above their heads?  No.  And I don't expect anyone who sees them to think "wow those kids are big supporters of this cause."  They are there primarily because I am there.

Is that selfish on my part, to take them along so that I can participate?  I don't think so.  I'm not putting them in danger or depriving them of something vital; in fact I'm showing them a part of civil society that lots of kids probably only see from the outside, on the television. 

If I go shopping and I take them with me no one says I am cruel for making Wriggly and Snuffly tag along.  Whenever I've taken the kids to council work I haven't faced any criticism for forcing them to be in a workshop or meeting; rather I've been apologising for when they are a bit noisy or try to steal someone's shoe. 

When they get older and it becomes more feasible to do so, I will ask them if they want to come and if they say no then I'll try to arrange a babysitter or something.  We'll see how that goes. 

And as with protests so with so much else in life - if you make it so that children are unwelcome then you are also effectively shutting out their primary caregivers, and most of the time that's going to be women.  Let's see if we can change that.


Jack Ryan said...

I find it strange that you are going to a protest against 'authority' but somehow need to justify why you are taking your kids to the blogosphere. Also I really doubt the child in the photo somehow understands the issues and wrote a placard. Methinks it was written for him by a kind parent.
Sure I take my kid shopping, but I don't make them carry my bags.

Law said...

A nice post. One I often hear is that people taking their kids along to protests are exploiting them; "Those kids don't even know what they're protesting, what if they grow up thinking the opposite" etc. As a non parent I hadn't really considered that a lot of kids are there because it's the only way their parents can attend- so thanks!

stargazer said...

@ jack ryan: it brings to mind a protest i had to walk past a few years ago. it was against the te hurihanga youth justice unit (shut down the minute the national government got into power), and the local residents were protesting its being there. there were little kids at that protest too, but they were holding signs that said "sod off".

yeah, i don't think the kids in the picture julie supplied are very hard done by.

Julie said...

The child in the photo may not have written the placard themselves but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they do understand the issues. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. I had an opinion on the Springbok Tour at 7, largely informed by listening to my father's views. At that age I would have been v happy holding a placard saying "Sport & Politics Shouldn't Mix". Did I change my mind in later years? Yes. Adults change their minds about things and are embarassed about positions they advocated for in their past, why do we silence children rather than allow them a voice and acknowledge that just like every older human being they may well change their mind as time passes?

Do we now have to personally handwrite all placards we carry? Got any bumper stickers on your car? Did you make them yourself?

Moz said...

@Julie: I don't have a car, but a car I passed on my way to work now has a "your vehicle is parked illegally" sticker that I made. Does that count?

I'm not even slightly convinced by that argument, BTW. Even if people make the placard themselves chances are the slogan is recycled.

I think ideally all protests should be child-friendly and I have in the tried for that. Sometimes, of course, the powers that be don't co-operate. That's where I've heard the most vehement objections - people saying "how could you put your children in a situation where a gang of armed thugs will attack them?" Simple, I was pretty sure that said thugs wouldn't appear or wouldn't attack. I was wrong. Sorry about that.

But, you know, I live in Melbourne. Recently we've had a child wounded in a drive-by shooting ... at a different address, in a different street. Bullets are like that. But how could you possibly endanger your child by letting it live in a world where people shoot at each other? And just last week a car ploughed into a tram stop and injured three children. How can you allow your child to live in a world where adults are allowed to pilot tonnes of machinery right next to pedestrians?

Sandra said...

GO Julie! I too pinpoint my first moment of questioning the political system during the 81 Spring Bok tour. I was nine.

I support your cause in protesting wholeheartedly.

I also want to flag up my deep appreciation for the issues you have made plain in this post about family friendly protests and the participation of all adults in public fora. When children coming along is normal, then full adult participation in public life becomes normal.

Brett Dale said...

If someone cant find someone to look after their children, then they have every right to take their kids, of course the children involved dont understand the issues.

People should be able to form a union if they want to, and people should be allowed not to join a if they want to, with out abuse or threats.

Sandra said...

No. Brett your wording implies that children being at these events is a last resort. That's not 'family friendly' so much as 'family tolerant' language. If we want all adults to participate in public life, then we stop presuming that the only way for women to participate is to farm out their children, not because childcare is not a legitimate choice but because the presumption of childcare excludes women who cannot or will not leave their children.

ABC123 said...

I think it comes down to an issue of safety - at every protest despite everyones best intentions there is still the potential for violence from either side, or the police. I have been at a protest that started very peacefully but I ended up being caught in the middle of a huge crowd being almost pushed to the ground a few times and a friend had to literally drag me out, i hate to think what would have happened if my children had been standing beside me. For me, if I feel there is even the slightest chance that a protest could turn bad or even a little bit pushy then I leave the kids at home because if something happened to them I would never forgive myself, and it's just not a risk I'm willing to take.

LudditeJourno said...

Julie, this is a wonderful, primary caregiver, centred post. Which makes it, in the case of children, a feminist post too of course. I co-parented for many years with a now ex-partner. As soon as her children were old enough to say "can I come to that?" we let them, but before that I protested and she stayed home. I was more into direct action than she was - but there's no doubt her concerns over her children were the primary driver for many of those decisions.

Brett Dale said...

I just don't like Children in protests, just like i dont like children in commercials to sell products directed at adults, Cars, Houses, etc etc.

Thats just me.

katy said...

I took my baby to the march yesterday, I could have left her with someone but as far as I am concerned she is part of the working class, the people marching were her people and it was right for her to be there.

I was approached by a number of older women who reminisced about taking their own children to marches, which was nice.

Brett Dale said...

So no facebook campaign to get Wille Jackson fired from his tvnz work for advocating violence at these protests?

Everybody okay with this???

John said...

Thanks for this post, I think that all publicly advertised protests should be child friendly. I think that this extends to being mindful of the noise level of megaphones and being mindful of distances the organizers expect marchers to walk.

I've been on the receiving end of police violence many times at protests but this does not stop me from taking my son on protests, I am on edge at demo's constantly trying to judge the intentions of the police and move to a place with an easy escape route if I ever see the police move in. I also now actively work to keep protests a safe space, this includes holding the police to account for their violence. Parents should not be blamed for police violence and fear of police action should not keep parents from taking their kids to protests.

On another note my parents took me to a whole lot of fundamentalist christian stuff as a kid. I don't hold this against them in the slightest, they raised me to think critically and always encouraged me to think broadly and consider a range of viewpoints. I quickly formed my own opinions and was politically active by the age of about 11. I have held on to some of my parents beliefs and views and discarded a fair amount. Likewise I will raise my son to ask questions and come to his own views about issues.

Anonymous said...


Depending on the age of the child, they might have a good understanding of the issues. I remember when I was ten years old being taken to a protest against Max Bradford's proposed reforms of the Holidays Act. I had a little sticker that said "hands off our holidays". I was a bright kid and it was a simple issue, so I understood it pretty clearly.

It's never too early to teach children that they have a right to engage with the world in which they live.

- Elley

Julie said...

@Brett, since when has silence indicated agreement on this blog? We don't have to write about anything we don't have the time/resources/inclination to write about you know. Perhaps if you would like to pay us for our work then you might, MIGHT, be in a position to give us some direction.

Thanks for all the feedback, I'm glad this has struck a chord with some.

Wriggly and Snuffly were lovely fellow marchers on Saturday, although Wriggly did get a bit over it as we got closer to his normal dinner time, so we turned back eventually. I took heaps of snacks for the kids and they enjoyed that immensely! It was a lovely feel and a very diverse crowd - I'm used to marching with crowds dominated by women but this was probably 60/40 men/women and all ages. Absolutely wonderful to see so many older people marching, some with walkers. It's always nice when there are so many people on a protest that you don't see all your friends, and don't even realise many of them were there until you look at the photos afterwards :-)

Brett Dale said...


This whole post has been about the protests, Willie Jackson has come out and advocated violence against people, Im pretty sure if someone, who supported the Ports of auckland, advocate violence against the protestors, the hand mirror writers would find the time to write about it.

Surly it doesnt help your cause, to have someone as well known as Willie advocate violence, this blog in the past has spoken up against people not speaking up against violence, I just find it hypocritical, but then again as you have pointed out in the past, its your blog and your writers can write what they like.

Scuba Nurse said...

I haven't written any posts, comments or anything in the last fortnight because I'm dealing with some horrible shit right now, but I thought I'd take the time to say "fuck you" Brent
We don't owe you ANYTHING.
Hey here is an idea.. Freaking google the issue and find some people who ARE writing right now instead of harassing strangers to write about something YOU could write about yourself.
Nice to know that you are such a rabid fan that you can't get opinions anywhere else, but please, just get lost.

Herp said...

" but I thought I'd take the time to say "fuck you" Brent
We don't owe you ANYTHING."

Including correct spelling of his name apparently

Brett Dale said...

So i guess you guys also dont have the time/resources to comment on Garry Parsloe verbal abuse of non union female workers.

Yes you can write what you like, and dont own anybody anything, and I have the right to think people are hypocrites.

Julie said...

Brett, let me ask you why you are so concerned with verbal abuse of "non-union FEMALE workers"? (my emphasis) If it's a problem then isn't it a problem regardless of the gender?

A friend of mine used this example on FB recently and I thought it apposite: if one person at the cricket throws stuff at the players do you assume everyone in the stadium thinks it was ok?

Seeing as how you (kind of) asked, am I ok with advocating violence in this kind of stuff? Personally, no. I can understand however the frustration that leads people to do so (that's understanding not excusing btw). Jackson subsequently said he didn't mean actual violence I think. Believe that or not if you will. I haven't had much to do with Willie in recent years but certainly I've seen him get overly dramatic when worked up in the past.

In terms of Parsloe verbally abusing non-union workers? Well I guess it depends what he said. If he said "bunch of filthy f-ing scabs" then, well, is that really so awful? If he said "I'm going to hunt you down and shoot you" well that would be too far for me. Violence I am personally not ok with, nor threats of it, but just general verbal abuse, highly dependent on context and content for me.

brettdale said...

Julie: thanks for replying to my comment, I personally think calling someone a "filthy *** scab" is intimidating language.

Yes abuse of either gender is a problem. I just dont like intimidation tactics, which I think some people are doing.

Brandy Alexander said...

I think taking kids along to protests is unethical. Unless they are old enough to understand the issues. Your kids should be your first priority and if you can't arrange someone to look after them, you shouldn't be going to the protest.

I think it is an inappropriate place for kids to be. Particularly when the protest involves violence, abuse and intimidation.

A couple of people I know when along to stage a counter protest. They had a different perspective on the issue and they had a right to express themselves.
But people at the protest swore at them, abused them, called them Nazis, ripped up their signs and physically attacked them:

I would not want my kids to see that. And I would not want them thinking that is how we behave towards people who disagree with what we are saying.

Alex said...

Brandy Alexander - Its called politics, and if you don't want your children to see politics as it is practiced by real people with real grievances then you are denying them an important part of their education. Kids need to learn that there are some issues worth taking to the streets for, whether or not they personally understand the issue is not relevant, because when they are older they will make up their own mind. You can't protect your kids from seeing opinions forever.

Brett Dale said...


Children may not be able to see that some protestors manipulative the issues.

Take the GE debate, sure we all got a kick out a backup singer for Ray Columbus in the 60's dancing in her pink underwear to protest GE food, she didnt quite though present hard data or stats to back up her claim that it's harmful.

Or take the bigots at density church, when they had their anti gay march, not only did they have little kids at the protest, but they had little kids doing a haka!!!

I guess what Im trying to say is, sure take the kiddies along to a protest, but just because kids are there doesn't make you right on a issue.