Saturday, November 03, 2007

Looking for a fight?

Text by Maps, photos by Skyler:

Some parts of the media are portraying today's picket outside the Labour Party's conference on Auckland's North Shore as a violent confrontation set in motion by the one hundred and fifty or so protesters who had gathered to denounce the recent 'anti-terror' raids by police. While the speeches and chants of the protest were angry - 'Helen Clark, terrorist', 'Tame Iti Out, Rickards In', and 'Chris Trotter, leftist imposter' are juicy examples - it was the police and a certain Labour delegate who were responsible for the aggression.

According to a media report I just read, the first of the day's several scuffles began when 'protesters attempted to push through police lines' and, presumably, storm the Bruce Mason Centre. The reality is that a small group of us on the edge of the protest were struggling to hold our line after the police attempted, without any sort of warning, to push us away from the open space outside the Centre onto the street. After a rolling maul that lasted a minute or so they cops gave up and retreated to the other side of the twenty-two, but the incident set a pattern. The police seemed keen to niggle protesters and to pick fights.

A few minutes after the rolling maul, I was standing next to a young woman who couldn't have been much more than five feet tall. She was waving a small flag, and when a sudden gust of wind blew it into the face of a cop he enlisted the help of a couple of other cops, ripped the bamboo flagpole away, broke it in half, and threw the flag away. Not surprisingly, the woman and her friends objected. An accumulation of small incidents of this kind helped to darken the mood of picketers and set the scene for more scuffling.

A lot of the delegates going in to the conference got jeered, or at least challenged to make some sort of stand over Helen Clark's recent pre-emptive strike against the victims of the police 'anti-terror' raids. One of the delegates who objected to this treatment was my old PhD mate Len Richards, who recently followed his missus Jill Ovens, the local boss of the Service and Food Workers Union, out of the near-defunct Alliance and into the Labour Party.

Len and Jill emerged from the Mason Centre, and Jill did an interview with the journalist standing by the picket line, during which she claimed that protesters were barking up the wrong tree. In the first place, she said, many of the unionists in Labour are already opposed to the Terrorism Suppression Act and the recent raids. In the second place, Jill said, it's wrong to advocate violence, as we've apparently been doing by protesting over the past fortnight. But it's common knowledge that Jill's attempts to get the Council of Trade Unions to take a stand against the raid have been scorned, and her Gandhian turn was rather undermined when Len swung a megaphone at some picketers who dared to suggest he had been wrong to jump aboard Helen Clark's leaky waka.

According to indymedia, police didn't arrest Len, even though there were scores of witnesses, some of them carrying video cameras (look here). On the other hand, a Tuhoe boy was arrested and charged with 'assaulting a police officer' because he did a haka to protest the police persecution of his community in the Ureweras. Figures.

A complaint was laid against Len after the protest: I hope he'll apologise fulsomely so that the whole thing can be sorted out over a beer, rather than in a court. Perhaps he can sign on for that anger management course with Trevor Mallard...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew the whole thing was a right wing conspiracy - Key and the police - to alienate the centre left government from their left and Maori voter base.

Fragmented left and National will get in next year.

2:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Police express regret for their provocative action at Labour Party Conference protest
Submitted by gpja on Sat, 11/03/2007 - 01:53.

3 November 2007

Media Release:

No charges to be laid against three arrested

GPJA is pleased the police indicated regret for provocative action on their part which led to rising tension and ultimately the arrest of two people outside the Labour Party conference in Auckland today.

Three arrests were made altogether and we are pleased no charges are to be laid. The three were instead detained on breach of the peace and processed without charges being laid.

The tension rose when police, without warning, began to push people away from the centre.

We were pleased that several Labour Party members spoke privately with protestors to express deep concern at the use of so-called “anti-terror laws” under Labour’s watch. This included a member of the Labour Party Maori Policy Council who addressed the crowd.

A complaint of assault has been laid with the police against a conference attendee who assaulted a female protestor.

The protest called for the repeal of the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002 and its various off-shoots which have resulted in drastically increased powers of surveillance for the police and Security Intelligence Service as well as big increases in resourcing.

These are George Bush’s laws imposed on New Zealand by the Labour government over the past six years.

Some of those arrested in the so-called anti-terror raids three weeks ago were at the protest along with family members.

John Minto
Ph (09) 8463173 (H)
(09) 8452132 (W)

4:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Labour Party is becoming increasingly right wing: even if one subscribed to the inanity of parliamentary or bourgeois liberal democracy, one might consider voting for National. National at least would say they are for terrorism (they would be quite open about supporting the US): but they are all bull shit artists in any case these politicians in parliament; and trade unionists. The latter are also on the take and are frequently racists as the police mostly are (they also specialize in rape and shooting young men).

This Rickard or Richards sounds like a fascist. He needs to be dealt with in some way.

Apologies from the police are as useful and as meaningful as as cup of piss to dying man.

They are racists. The police are the violent ones. Helen Clark is a bourgeois: she is dangerous...who can rid me of her and her troublesome kind ?

9:04 pm  
Blogger Asher said...

Can you please post your photos on the Aotearoa Indymedia newswire? Would be much appreciated.

Aotearoa Indymedia Editorial Collective

10:00 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Hi Asher,

have put some photos on Indymedia,


1:39 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

When we arrived at the Bruce Mason Centre at 9am the protest was relatively small but over the next few hours it grew to about 150-200 people. The protestors were calling for the delegates at the conference to raise the issue of the Terrorism Supression Act and stand up for Civil Rights. John Minto also highlighted that the arestees deserved a fair trial and that Helen Clark's comments regarding them was prejudicing their cases.

The protestors were angry and vocal but at no time violent - the police provoked and wound up the atmosphere by having an excessive amount of cops present and pushing at the protst line. They also showed their bias against the protestors by arresting protestors who had done nothing, while they let Len Richards walk through the police line and back into the conference after he assaulted some of the protestors.

The people at the picket were varied and included people of all ages and backgrounds. I know the media frames these events to look the most dramatic but the issue of Civil Rights and the right to a fair trial is one that attracts support across the community.

2:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:26 pm  

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