Race official says inequality a pressing issue in New Zealand as U.S. protests persist


The wall to wall coverage from the United States on social media feeds on the case of George Floyd is prompting many New Zealanders to explore racism here, New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said on Tuesday.

“The case of George Floyd has been a trigger in the U.S. and is being closely observed in New Zealand,” Foon told New Zealand Messenger. Floyd was an unarmed African American man suffocated to death by a white police officer in the mid-western U.S. state of Minnesota on May 25.

“Certainly, inequality is a pressing issue in New Zealand,” he said.

The Commission has made recent statements about inequality, and how The Treaty of Waitangi can inform the COVID-19 recovery period, as an example of where this treaty partnership can play a central role in promoting equality in New Zealand, the commissioner said.

The Treaty of Waitangi was New Zealand’s founding document made in 1840 between the British Crown and more than 500 Maori chiefs. While Maori were presenting Kiwis with a bicultural perspective, immigration was making the country multicultural.

“Many New Zealanders are becoming aware of how African American people have been mis-treated by police in modern times and historically,” Foon said, adding many people have taken a strong stance here in response to the video of George Floyd being killed.

People take part in a protest over the death of George Floyd in central Auckland, New Zealand, on June 1, 2020. People gathered to protest over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man suffocated to death by a white police officer in the mid-western U.S. state of Minnesota on May 25. (Photo by Wilson/Xinhua)

Foon said the recent New Zealand protests were organized almost overnight, responding to an escalation of protests in the United States.

Thousands of New Zealanders joined Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States on June 1 by demonstrating peacefully in major Kiwi cities over the death of George Floyd.

Thousands of people gathered in a square in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, with hundreds more protestors in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington.

Some demonstrators wore face masks and carried signs, or did haka in support of Black Lives Matter, protesting against the murder of Floyd.