They appeared in the car park. They were clad in black. They sported swastika tattoos. Some held banners. One older gentleman wore cricket whites. They were there to make a statement.
For the first time in a long time they would march through Christchurch's central city and tell anyone who would listen that it was OK to be white. And that "diversity equals white genocide".
They were members of the Right Wing Resistance, a group started by serial group-starter Kyle Chapman. Their emblem was a skull representing honour in battle for Celtic warriors. Police officers arrived quickly to manage the event.
The Rally Against Racism was timed to coincide with the white supremacists' march. Officers kept the groups separate as insults were exchanged. One man with a swastika tattoo on his scalp told an anti-racism protester that he was a "homo". The protester in turn offered to sit down and have tea and muffins with the swastika-scalped man. The invitation was declined.
It was all too much for another protester who was clothed in biblical garb. In Victoria Square he came in between the two groups and began singing Give Peace a Chance.
There was, however, little chance.
For several years Chapman said the movement was growing. "People are looking for this sort of thing," he said, adding that the earthquakes helped bring in members. There were about 40 white supremacists at the rally. They walked, had speeches then went to a social function. Two years ago when the same group marched down Riccarton Rd there were about 40 people.
Until now, the earthquakes had meant the group could not march in the central city. But most people, including the Saturday tourists, ignored it - choosing instead to busy themselves taking photos of the ruins of the cathedral or of large Easter eggs organised by Starship children's hospital to raise money for sick children.
"Christchurch does not need this right now," one person said as the groups moved away from the square.
James Dann, a protester, said the city had a reputation for being white and racist. He said it was undeserved.
"It's heartening to see young people come out and decide this is what they want to do and challenge that view. Christchurch had an unjustified reputation for being white and racist but this shows there is opposition here."
Some of those young people brought vegan snacks for the protesters to feast on while they yelled about how people came together to defeat fascism in the 1940s. The white supremacists did not seem to have any snacks. They retreated to a corner of Victoria Square and spoke into a megaphone about how "society is full of hypocrisy" and "full of white racism".
About 30 minutes later the crowds had dispersed. But the tourists remained, still snapping photos of the ruins of the cathedral.
- Sunday Star Times
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