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Red Squad, Blue Squad

PR 24 baton
PR 24 baton 1981, Monadnock, United States. Anonymous gift, 1989. Te Papa

Confrontations between rugby supporters and anti-Springbok tour protesters in New Zealand grew increasingly violent as the 1981 tour progressed. To manage the conflict, police were equipped with long batons, helmets, and riot shields.

Two small police units – commonly called the Red Squad and the Blue Squad – were formed to escort the Springboks. To protesters, these squads came to represent brutal state violence; to others, the upholding of law and order.

As individuals, some police supported the tour and some did not. But as officers they performed their duty. Forty percent of the nation's police were deployed for the last test at Eden Park, Auckland.

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