Protestors blare cries at Diwali Festival
Protesters marred the first day of Diwali celebrations in Auckland - the country’s largest and most colourful cultural festival.
The Indian Festival of Lights kicked off with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp by Prime Minister John Key and the first public address from newly-elected Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
But while hundreds turned up to Auckland’s Aotea Square at midday on Saturday to celebrate, some members of the Indian community gathered in protest.
The 50-strong crowd had gathered in support of 150 Indian students who face deportation over false immigration documents.
During Key’s opening speech, they yelled ’’filth’’ and ‘‘shame’’ as he spoke of a trip to India to strengthen trade bonds.
‘‘I want to thank all members of the Indian community for the contribution that they make,’’ Key said.
And he offered a tongue-incheek reference to the protesters: ‘‘And I would like to thank my fan club over there for adding to today’s speech.’’
Goff’s first speech as mayor was also drowned out by the protesters. ’’We celebrate our multicultural city, the Indian community in New Zealand is over 100,000 and in Auckland, that’s eight per cent of our population,’’ he said.
‘‘You’re presence means rich- ness in culture, in music, in cuisine ... we can celebrate our city as the most multicultural this country and one of the most multicultural in the world.’’
Labour leader Andrew Little addressed the protesters directly, saying: ’’we support your call for justice’’.
‘‘One of the fastest growing parts of the Indian community are young students who come out here to study. Unfortunately some are having an experience now because they’ve been ripped off.
‘‘To the Indian students [protesting] here today we support your call for justice.’’ The protest crowd consisted of Unite Union and Indian community members. Diwali, the celebration of traditional and contemporary Indian culture is free, family friendly and regularly attracts tens of thousands of people over the weekend.
This year’s Diwali featured international stars including a film star performing traditional Kathak dances.
Protestors yelled slurs at the Prime Minister.