More than 20 peaceful protesters have gathered outside the Mount Maunganui Community Hall ahead of an anti-co-goverance meeting tonight.
The event is the first of three to take place at the Mount, ending on Sunday.
Those gathered are holding placards, one of which reads “Haere Atu Facists’” and another says “Stop this racist hate”.
Heidi Tidmarsh from Omanu, who is waving a placard that reads “Unity One Love” at passing vehicles, and other colleagues were getting lots of toots of support from passing motorists.
“We don’t need this divisive rhetoric in our town,” she said. “Get out of my town.”
Meeting attendees started arriving after 6pm, and eight police officers are standing on the footpath outside the hall.
Meeting attendees were being greeted with Kai Ora by the protestors and atmosphere among the protestors is upbeat
They are also being greeted with the sounds of Te Arohanui from Stan Walker’s well-known studio album.
The Bay of Plenty Times was refused permission to enter the meeting.
One protestor who managed to get into the meeting, and then was evicted, claimed attendees were told free speech was under attack.
A call was made for donations to be made to help fund more meetings, they claimed.
Tauranga historian and iwi leader Buddy Mikaere said he was buoyed by the number of people who participated in the peaceful protest tonight.
“We have made our point and will be back again tomorrow.”
Mikaere added: “It’s just amazing that most of the people who attended the peaceful protest were pākehā.”
Mikaere also thanked the police for also “coming along”.
Earlier this week, Mikaere vowed to protest the anti-co-governance meetings.
Mikaere told the Bay of Plenty Times he felt “embarrassed and ashamed” a community hall was hosting the anti-co-governance meetings, which he believed excluded people because of their race.
The Bay of Plenty Times rang a contact number for the Mount Maunganui Community Hall committee earlier this week.
A woman who answered and spoke as a committee representative said they would not cancel the meetings because they were treating the hiree “just like everyone else”.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who was in Tauranga yesterday as part of the party’s campaign tour Te Ara Kōrero, believes the meetings are instilling “fear in people” and allowing rhetoric that endangered tangata whenua. The Waiariki MP said he “absolutely” backed Mikaere’s vow to protest the meetings in Mount Maunganui.
Stop Co-Governance tour leader Julian Batchelor said Waititi was invited to attend the meetings and, in Batchelor’s opinion, “get informed about what they really are about, not what he thinks they’re about”.