The withdrawal of combat troops from Vietnam did nothing to stem the growth of the anti-war movement in New Zealand.
When Auckland organised a civic reception on 12 May 1971 to mark the return of 161 Battery RNZA and 4 Troop NZSAS from their deployment in South Vietnam, anti-war protesters staged a demonstration to coincide with the event.
The civic parade was led by the Band of the Royal New Zealand Artillery followed by a double column of Land Rovers carrying the gunners of 161 Battery, and troopers from the NZSAS. The march was relatively uneventful until the column reached the reviewing platform outside the Auckland Town Hall.
As the parade approached the reviewing platform red paint bombs and fire crackers were thrown on the road. The demonstrators used red paint to symbolise the bloodshed in Vietnam. Several paint-covered protesters then broke free from the crowd and sat on the road in an attempt to block the parade route. Despite forcing the band to alter course the protesters only caused a momentary disruption to the parade before they were removed by police.
In a postscript to this event the commander of 161 Battery, Major John Masters was the subject of a citizen’s arrest by members of a peace group and charged with “offensive and disorderly behaviour” for parading his unit up Queen Street. The case was thrown out by Magistrate H. Y. Gilliand who described the application as “misconstrued and abusive” and not representing the general public feeling.
Images courtesy John Miller