Thousands of NZers march for Black Lives Matter

Thousands of New Zealanders have marched at Black Lives Matter rallies in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin this afternoon.

Over the past three weeks, people across the US have already protesting over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in police custody. Since then, the Black Lives Matter movement has come to life again throughout many countries, with protesters taking to the streets, demanding an end to police brutality and racism.

In Dunedin, hundreds of people gathered at the Otago Museum reserve to show solidarity with the movement. They marched down George Street to the Octagon, where a rally was held.

The Auckland march, which started at Aotea Square, headed down Queen St and ended at the US consulate, where protesters took a knee and observed a minute of silence for George Floyd.

The Auckland rally opened with a karakia at Aotea Square and a mihi whakatau from Graham Tipene of Ngāti Whātua, who told the crowd to "keep it peaceful".

"Our kids are here, so let's do it right and fight for what's right."

There were some counter-protesters, including some who yelled out 'all lives matter' during speeches, but those there for the BLM gathering were told to ignore them, or to take a knee if they saw them.

Members of the Ethiopian and Somalian communities addressed the crowd on the Black Lives matter movement, along with social justice campaigner Julia Whaipooti, who talked about the use of armed police in predominantly Māori and Pasifika areas.

"For many of us this is not a new moment in time, not a hashtag on Instagram."

"Aotearoa and the rest of the world is going to be changed by you. Not me, I've done my time," 'Ilolahia said.

He joked that he had to use cue cards to read his speech because he'd had too many batons and 2x4s to the head.

AUT academic Camille Nakhid, who studied police discrimination against the African community in New Zealand, said racism was the knee on the neck of Māori, Pasifika and other communities of colour in New Zealand.

"Everything is talking and thinking about the murder of george Floyd in the US and the knee that was on his neck. But I want to talk about the knees on our neck, the Black indigenous people of colour in Aotearoa".

She said things such as putting students into lower streams in schools, lower standards of health and the uplifting of children were the knees upon the neck of people of colour in this country.

"This protest is because we love who we are. Do not let them turn our love into hate against each other.

"We have to remain awake because we need to get those knees off our neck."