Israel protesters burn flags, throw shoes in Auckland

UPDATED 4:41p.m. Sat, 05 Jun 2010 3:06p.m.

Hundreds of anti-Israeli protestors hurled old shoes at the US consulate in Auckland today in an “expression of outrage and anger” over clashes between Israeli armed forces and Gaza-bound aid workers.

See photos of the Queen St protests against the Israel government

The demonstration, organised by Global Peace and Justice Auckland, was a call for sanctions against the Israeli government after nine humanitarian aid workers were killed when Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of boats travelling to Gaza with aid on Monday, protest organiser Mike Treen said.

Protests also took place in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

In Auckland the protestors marched from Aotea Square to the US consulate where they threw the shoes before listening to various speakers, including Palestinians, an Irishman, a Turkish man and several others with friends in the flotilla.

Two flags, believed to those of Israel and the United States, were also burned in the crowd.

Mr Treen said shoe throwing was a symbolic action of disgust or opposition.

“There appeared to be many dozens going, I don’t know how many shoes, there must have been at least 100 or so shoes flying toward that building, it was quite a sight,” he said.

Shoe throwing was adopted by the group after an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at then-US President George W Bush during a press conference in 2008.

Mr Treen said the US consulate was targeted over its close relationship with Israel.

“The United States remains the principal backer of Israel, it wouldn’t be able to do what it does without the billions of dollars in economic aid and military aid that it receives from the United States,” he said.

“You’ve got millions of people denied very basic rights and no way to peacefully express their opposition. They live under effective military control and their voice isn’t heard.”

Mr Treen said today’s protest was successful and one of the group’s biggest anti-Israel protests to date.

He estimated about 1000 attended the rally, although media estimated the crowd size to be several hundred.

“We don’t see that anything particularly dramatic is going to change overnight in New Zealand but what it is, is part of a broader international movement which is seeking to promote a boycott of Israel, including the economic, political, military or other ties with that regime.”

Another Gaza-bound aid ship was this afternoon several kilometres from the blockaded Palestinian territory and was being tailed by three Israeli naval boats.

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