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On April 9, around 80 protesters picketed the annual Young Nats’ ball at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland.
The protesters were affiliated with Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) and staged a nonviolent demonstration to raise awareness on growing inequality.
AAAP describes their organization as “a direct action, advocacy and education group mobilising against the neoliberal agenda on jobs, welfare and poverty.”
On the MyNational website, the Young Nats’ ball was described as a “chance to get glammed up and rub shoulders with the leaders of the country,” offering a three-course meal and open bar in exchange for a $128 ticket.
Prominent National Party members including current Prime Minister John Key and former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley attended.
AAAP’s Sophie Morgan noted that no members from the youth constituent of the National Party came out of the hotel to interact with the protesters and said the 20-odd police officers outside the event seemed excessive.
“The cops showed up before we did, there were at least 20 of them standing outside the doors despite us always saying we were just there to have an alternative party.”
The protest came two days after AAAP’s Mangere Impact sessions, an event where hundreds of volunteers help beneficiaries with their welfare assistance. Organizers of the session claim to have helped 700 people in South Auckland, though they had more people attend than they could help.
Morgan said, “AAAP believes that the contrast between the Young Nats’ Ball and the lives of the people seen at this year’s Impact is disturbing.”
AAAP have been responsible for similar protests such as picketing the Sky City centre in May 2015, before Prime Minister John Key’s post-budget speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle.
Former Green Party MP, and spokesperson for the AAAP, Sue Bradford thanked the protesters picketing the ball for “exposing the empathy & wealth gap.”
Robin Grieve, ACT party candidate for Whangarei and avocado orchard owner, tweeted of the event—“envy is ugly.”