Pro­tes­tors blare cries at Di­wali Fes­ti­val

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - NI­COLE LAW­TON

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.

BE­VAN READ/FAIR­FAX NZ

Pro­tes­tors yelled slurs at the Prime Min­is­ter.

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