Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When a riot went on

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  • Russell Brown,

    Attachment Attachment

    Scans of the original Rip It Up pages. Click to embiggen.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    What was the cause? Youthful disillusion? Or a paper by an American academic objecting to "Whaling" as a thinly disguised attack on People Of Size?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The day after the riots, I was visiting my whanau in Auckland and I remember having a conversation with my cousin (we were both aged 9) about the riot. We weren't entirely sure what had happened, but we knew it was bad. The next day my family drove down Queen Street before returning to Hamilton, but most of the chaos was cleaned up and there wasn't much to see (and it was a Sunday in the 1980s, so things were pretty quiet and empty, anyway).

    But reading this piece made me finally realise what went on. It's insane to think that Dave Dobbyn could have somehow been considered to have caused a riot. But no. That's not what happened. It was the police being foolish, treating a pop concert the same way as they'd treat a protest rally.

    But Dave Dobbyn doesn't get off scot-free. In 1995 he broke the internet. A live gig was broadcast on the internet - a first for New Zealand. Back then all the interwebs came via Waikato Uni and it couldn't really handle the demands of such a bandwidth-intense event. That night the NZ internet was noticeably slower, for which frustrated geeks had an easy target for their ire.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Alec Morgan,

    Hard to fault account here by Russell. Auckland Metro did a couple of articles too if I recall correctly, one focused on the specifics of Dave Dobyn’s court case.

    This riot was at the back of an ugly few years in NZ history, the fag end of the 70s, dawn raids, ’81 tour, pub clearouts and Muldoonist anti unionism got the cops engaged as they ever had been in their state forces role.

    DD Smash–what a great name in context. Now about those first paragraph indents in Rip It Up...

    Tokerau Beach • Since Nov 2006 • 123 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan,

    cheers for the linkage, Russell. Love the RIU scans,esp the Queen St Retail Association member Michael Dow saying how crowd turning round to see the police "And too many young people had seen things like Straw Dogs and it exploded." [was he meaning Sleeping Dogs?]

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    BFM used to play audio of a clearly very, er, "merry" then Auckland mayor Cath Tizard banging on at the previous week's concert about how great it was that Aotea Square was being used for big public gigs, etc. It's pretty hilarious listening.
    Wonder if said audio's on the web ?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Life’s a riot…
    and, as I recall, after it all settled down we realised we had absolutely no idea where the Rip It Up van had been parked – we had to go walkabout round the area to find it, several blocks away from the running fracas thankfully….

    EDIT: nice to hear Jeremy Templer (who did some redesign work on RIU back then) on The Best Song Ever Written this afternoon.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to peter mclennan,

    And too many young people had seen things like Straw Dogs and it exploded.” [was he meaning Sleeping Dogs?]

    Ah! It puzzled me -- but maybe that's it. Although Straw Dogs was quite controversial around that time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Straw Dogs was quite controversial around that time.

    Would have led to a much bloodier ending for the riot though....

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Patrick,

    I was in the centre of town that night, with a couple of friends - we hadn't gone to the concert, but were walking back up Queen Street to our car (parked somewhere up the back of Mainstreet) when we met the police line at the Wellesley Street intersection - there were about 10 police facing the crowd from the concert, and we saw the two baton charges. We also saw one person try to talk to the crowd and get them to disperse (basically walked up the no-man's-land between the police and the crowd, just trying to get people to turn around and walk away. It worked for a while, then someone threw something, and it was all on again - we left at that stage, while we could still get up Wellesley St and around back to the car.

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 261 posts Report Reply

  • Duncan McKenzie,

    I look back on this in the context of the times - the eighties and not long after the Labour govt was elected. I worked for the Ministry of Works - Roger D would have been plotting our demise at the time - out of the Bledisloe Building alongside Aotea Square. When I left work that evening the concert was starting and the yobbos were already on the walkway roof with their beers (and bladders).

    My wine club was having its annual dinner that night in Ponsonby - (wine clubs were a predecessor of share clubs but thankfully I never made the transition). Several members arrived late in a state of high agitation about rioting street kids - they couldn't get their cars out of the Civic carpark.

    One of the broken windows was that of the DFC on the opposite side of Queen St - not that many years later it was the DFC itself that was broken.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 53 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Russell, just a small factual error in your story: presumably it was Split Enz's 10th anniversary in 1984, not 20th ?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • kiwicmc,

    I remember being advised by the deBretts bouncer to stay in the pub for a bit which was nice as it was already closing time. When we did eventually staggered out (they kept the bar open) and wandered up Queen St, the carnage was quite staggering. A few knots of nervous policemen and the general populous looking for "bargains" - "there's still some scarves left in the Tie Shop" we were helpfully informed...

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since May 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Great article. I know it's a serious topic but this:

    This time, I lost a jandal in the retreat

    only in a Kiwi riot :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • carolijn guytonbeck,

    "I think it’s also worth knowing about the way that the local music business itself was almost swallowed up in the moral panic that followed the riot."

    Shortly after the riots I planned an outdoor concert and was called into a serious meeting with our local head of police and several others. They really didn't want it to go ahead concerned that riots would ensure. But said it could if I was very strict on not allowing alcohol - "it makes people violent". Drugs were ok - "they make people relaxed". Well the concert went successfully on a hot sunny afternoon in Chingford Park - short of grumpy friends who had to leave their beer at the gate. Funnily, part way through 20 or 30 plain clothed police emerged from the sport pavilion and enjoyed a casual game of cricket. I had no idea they were there! Thereafter I was able to organise concerts without serious meetings or hidden police.

    But yes, strange times as the riot squad were unwelcome guests to just about every good Dunedin party and if quietly watching from the side the actions and re-actions were interesting to observe. Amongst the flying glass there was vibrancy in the air.

    Dunedin • Since Oct 2013 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Don Christie,

    pumping irony?

    only in a Kiwi riot :-)

    so the vandals took the jandals...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Grant McDougall,

    Russell, just a small factual error in your story: presumably it was Split Enz’s 10th anniversary in 1984, not 20th ?

    Gah. I'll get that changed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I was at Uni at the time and I remember walking down Wakefield street after labs thinking I'd vaguely heard there was a free concert on in the square. We wandered down the street to where it joined Queen Street just as the first baton charge took place. I remember thinking how weird the whole scene was. A part of me was wondering what the hell had happened to cause the police to do a baton charge, it turned out nothing really.

    The next few minutes were spent watching the crowd move forward and then the police charging again and again. I distinctly remember thinking "Oh crap this is going to get really bad" because the police had just trained the crowd to understand that the police were completely ineffectual. You could see the crowd suddenly realise that there was nothing the police could do that could stop them and then chaos really broke loose.

    At that point we turned round and headed back up Wakefield St to get well out of what was clearly going to become a mess.

    To this day I still can't get over the sheer stupidity of the police that day. What I didn't know was that they had no real reason to be so heavy handed in the first place. Then and now, I still can't believe the police thought running at that massive crowd and waving their batons like some kind of magic wand would do anything other than make the crowd learn just how thin the blue line really was.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A recollection from Dylan Horrocks on Twitter

    Oh the memories! We left the gig before the trouble started, but back home my flatmate's boyfriend (a young cop) was watching the riot on TV, furious he was missing the chance to "break some heads." The memory of him grumping about missing the fun is the best explanation of that riot I've got.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    (As I posted elsewhere....) we had just returned from four years away in the US and UK and I recall having a conversation in Wellington with a slightly crazed American who was attempting to argue that the riot was engineered by the CIA, to destabilise the Lange Government. Heady days!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    to destabilise the Lange Government.

    Great story -- it's been a day of them. And, y'know, I don't think the riot was ever going to be what destabilised that government ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    I remember being in Queen St on the day at the concert. I could see the combination of alcohol & heavy handed policing was not going to work and so like many others ( I think) I legged it out of there before it got messy.

    It wasn’t so easy for those in the square though and as I had been on Queen St much easier to slip away. Hard to believe it happened all these years later.

    And great to see all the photos in the story. A bit of time travel to see those youthful pics of Andrew Boak and you.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    There is a paragraph in the wiki entry for Sleeping Dogs
    Sleeping Dogs ( NZ movie from '77) which lends credence to the idea that was the reference intended by Mike Dow.

    "The riot scenes in which police with batons and shields beat back protestors closely mirrored actions of police and protestors four years later during the 1981 South African National Rugby team - the Springboks' - tour in New Zealand, which sparked anti-apartheid protests."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jason Kemp,

    And great to see all the photos in the story. A bit of time travel to see those youthful pics of Andrew Boak and you.

    I protested half-heartedly about the pic of me going on Audioculture, but Murray told me it was history.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    don't forget this was only 3 years after the '81 tour, lots of people had recently faced down the police in the streets (and vice versa)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2620 posts Report Reply

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