Twenty-five years ago, New Zealand was swallowed by unrest sparked by sporting contacts with apartheid South Africa.
The arrival of the South African Springboks rugby team on July 19, 1981, kicked off two months of mayhem in the country set in the South Pacific and peopled by quiet, conservative men and women.
New Zealand was racked by argument and violence, fear and dissent at a level not seen since indigenous Maori tribes fought European colonists more than a century earlier.
It saw the nation divided, setting neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother and father against son. To this day, debate on the issue can revive bitter family arguments.
It saw children and grandmothers joining protest groups that opposed helmet-clad police in riot gear and wielding long batons. It saw 150,000 New Zealanders take to the streets and mount a campaign of civil disobedience on a massive scale
It saw airports, motorways and bridges blocked, television trans-mitters sabotaged, running battles in streets barricaded with barbed wire and more than 2,000 people arrested by the biggest regular and volunteer police force ever mounted in the country.
"It was like a war," Member of Parliament Marian Hobbs said this week, recalling the "fierce hatred" and adding, "Things you thought only happened overseas were happening in our own country. The fact that no one died was more luck than anything else."
A nation in which white Europeans had long lived harmoniously with brown Maoris and Pacific Islanders was brought to flashpoint by conflict between a national passion for the sport of rugby and an innate sense of fairness in a multicultural and multiracial society.
The flames were fanned by the prime minister of the day, Robert Muldoon, a diehard conservative who saw votes in pandering to New Zealanders' near-religious devotion to rugby and their desire to see an epic clash with their traditional rivals despite South Africa's racist apartheid regime.
To rugby fanatics, there was no debate. Politics, they said, should be kept out of sport.
But thousands more ardently believed that multiracial New Zealand -- which had prompted a boycott by 26 black nations of the 1976 Montreal Olympics by sending the All Blacks to South Africa -- should have nothing to do with the all-white apologists for apartheid and were prepared to stand up and be counted.
"If I'd thought New Zealanders were going to be bludgeoned by riot police, then I would have said ... `Jesus, the philosophical argument is not worth the blood of Kiwis,'" Aussie Malcolm, the then-minister of immigration, who personally approved the visas for the South Africans, said later.
The games were played at rugby grounds barricaded with barbed wire and resembling war zones. The scene was set at the first match on July 22 in Gisborne when a vehicle evaded a police cordon to drive around the grounds as protesters spread broken glass on the pitch.
Three days later, hundreds of protesters invaded a field in Hamilton, and the outnumbered police, told that a tour opponent had stolen a light aircraft and was threatening to crash it into the grandstand, called the game off.
"New Zealander turned against New Zealander that night," recalled veteran journalist Geoff Chapple, who wrote the book 1981: The Tour.
"Animal guts in your letterbox, milk bottles through your window, obscenities on your house, death threats through your phones, shop windows smashed, an ambulance wrecked," he said.
"You defended your turf that night with baseball bats. Pro-tour people invaded and wrecked houses, left anti-tour people unconscious on the lawns," he said.
Things went from bad to worse as the tour progressed. Police laid into 2,000 protesters outside parliament in Wellington, where "the batons started flailing and the air was filled with the sound of wood whacking unprotected bones and flesh," the Evening Post reported.
The rugby tour ended, eight weeks after it began, with violent scenes in Auckland, where cars were overturned in the streets as a light aircraft buzzed the stadium, dropping flour bombs on the players.
New Zealanders on both sides claimed victory, rugby fans pointing out that only one game was canceled and the protesters saying they had put an unprecedented international spotlight on sporting contact with the apartheid regime.
The Springboks did not leave South Africa again until apartheid was ended and president Nelson Mandela, who had been incarcerated under apartheid, later personally thanked New Zealanders for their contribution to ending it.
He was quoted as saying that when he heard about the protests in New Zealand, "The sun shone through the dark corridors of the cells."
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a