Black Lives Matter protesters marching in New Zealand have claimed police officers in the country ‘hunt Maori people like it’s a sport’.
The claims by one angry protest leader were met with cheers from some among the crowd that took to the streets of Auckland, on the nation’s north island, on Sunday.
It is estimated that in total more than 20,000 people marched across New Zealand, with some 5,000 taking to the streets of Wellington, the nation’s capital.
The protests – which follow similar gatherings in Australia and the rest of the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death – were the biggest across the nation in a decade.
More than 40,000 took to the streets in 2010, angry at plans to mine protected land.
Black Lives Matter protesters have marched on the streets New Zealand just days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned the country to level one COVID-19 restrictions
One leader at the protest in Auckland (not pictured) claimed police in New Zealand ‘hunt Maori (people) like a hunting sport’
It is estimated that in total more than 20,000 people marched across New Zealand, with some 5,000 taking to the streets of Wellington, the nation’s capital
Emilie Rakete, co-founder of Arms Down, a group that advocates for police not to be armed, told the crowd gathered in Auckland there she believed Maori people were unfairly targetted by police.
‘The cops in this country hunt Maori (people) like a hunting sport,’ Ms Rakete told the crowd, according to Stuff.co.nz.
‘When the cops say hands up, we say arms down.’
The Arms Down group claims Pacific people in are three-times more likely to be the subject of police violence then white people.
Speakers at the march led protesters in a chant of: ‘Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people won’t stop!’
The Auckland protest ended at the gates of the United States consulate general.
Leaders of the Ethiopian and Somalian communities were among those to address the crowd, in addition to prominent Maori speakers.
Camille Nakhid, an academic who studied police discrimination against the African community in New Zealand, likened racism to the ‘knee on the neck’ of its people.
Thousands took to the streets of Auckland, on the north island, and Wellington, on the south island, on Sunday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
A picture of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police in Minnesota spark rallies across the world, is held aloft at the protest in Wellington on Sunday
A placard with the names of people who have died during run-ins with police was carried aloft at the Wellington protest
Protesters carry a large Black Lives Matter banner at the front of the march on Sunday
‘Everything is talking and thinking about the murder of George Floyd in the US and the knee that was on his neck,’ Ms Nakhid said, The New Zealand Herald reports.
‘But I want to talk about the knees on our neck, the black indigenous people of colour in Aotearoa.
‘We have to remain awake because we need to get those knees off our neck.’
The marches in New Zealand come just days after the country returned to normal after weeks of no new COVID-19 cases.
There are currently no patients being treated for COVID-19 in New Zealand hospitals.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returned her nation to ‘level one’ restrictions this week meaning citizens could go about life as normal, while continuing to social distance.
A week after tens of thousands of people flooded capital cities across Australia, the planned protests for Sydney this weekend were deemed illegal by the NSW Supreme Court.
Despite the ruling, hundreds of protesters – who were campaigning for the improved treatment of refugees – still turned out, however organisers were fined by police.
The Auckland protest moved through the city before ending at the gates of the United States consulate general