Acknowledgement: Garrick Tremain
NZ, Wellington, 29 June 2014 – About one hundred people took part in a peaceful – if noisy – protest on a Saturday night outside Wellington’s sea-front museum, Te Papa. The National Party had booked Te Papa for a cocktail evening, with flash tuxedos and expensive frocks de rigueur for the evening.
Needless to say, low-income families and beneficiaries were not overly represented at this exclusive soirée.
The protest action was organised by Pōneke Action Against Poverty, a recently formed grass-roots pressure group fighting the widening gap between rich and poor in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
In a widely distributed statement, PAAP spokesperson, Kassie Hartendorp, said,
“While the Government has been lauding a drop in the number of people receiving the benefit, real unemployment has stayed the same. Instead of lifting people out of poverty, this Government has been refusing to support those who need help.”
The group statement condemned National current economic, social, and environmental policies;
While previously refusing to acknowledge the reality of being poor in Aotearoa, in May of 2013 Finance Minister Bill English declared “We don’t believe there is a solution to poverty in general.”
At the same time this Government is supporting the wealthy to become richer. From tax cuts in 2010 to asset sales and the ongoing expansion of mining, drilling, and fracking, this government is supporting big business while ignoring those who need help.
Pōneke Action Against Poverty stated that they wanted to see a Government working to support the most vulnerable in our society. Kassie Hartendorp said,
“We want to see a rise in the benefit (for the first time in decades), and the introduction of a decent Living Wage which is tied to the average wage in this country.”
Judging by the style of clothing worn to the Te Papa cocktail party, poverty was not a problem for attendees.
Many of the attendees had to walk the gauntlet between two rows of protesters. In case anyone believes that is “unfair” – consider that 250,000-plus children living in poverty is also unfair. Let this be a reminder to National Party members of the consequences of the policies they support;
This was a salient reminder to those middle class aspirationists and One Percenters that there is real, palpable anger out in the community.
There was sustained, loud, enthusiastic chanting from the crowd;
“One, two, three, four! Stop the war on the poor!”
“What’s the story, filthy Tory?”
“Whose streets?Our streets!”
“When workers rights are under attack – Stand up fight back!
If those National supporters think sixty protesters were too noisy, imagine 250,000 children all screaming out for help. Something that Minister and National Party campaign strategist, Steven Joyce, might bear in mind, as he walked by;
Some clear messages for the National Party, and it’s supporters;
(Acknowledgement: Mick McCrohon)
When the Prime Minister himself puts down the poorest of the poor in this country, is it any wonder that people will react accordingly? These signs say it all;
Even the cetaceans aren’t safe from this government;
Co-administrator of the ‘John Key has Let Down New Zealand‘ Facebook group (current membership: 14,605), Karen Jones (R), with her two daughters, Katie (L) and Tracey (centre). Karen is the very proud mum of two very sharp, and dedicated, young activists;
And speaking of young people, these teenagers – not part of the protest – were curious to know what was going on;
We explained to them that it was a protest against National’s social, economic, and environment policies. They immediately wanted to know if it related to mining on the Denniston Plateau and drilling in marine reserves! They were thoroughly clued up on contemporary environmental issues,
“New Zealand’s such a unique landscape, why ruin it, just for money?”
“Money is such a short time thing but then, like, our environment is a long time thing, and you can’t really replace [it].”
It would be a mistake to believe that young people are disinterested in the critical issues of the day. They were knowledgeable, and they were articulate. They were firm in their opposition to mining and drilling in our national parks and marine reserves.
They are the future hope for our country.
Greenpeace’s envoy from the arctic, the polar bear, tried to pass on the message of global warming threatening our world. Predictably, National Party supporters were more interested in cocktails and canapés, rather than climate change, as they hurried by;
Police presence numbered around ten to a dozen, with additional private security guards to boost numbers. The One Percent must be very afraid of their tenuous hold on power.
The protesters re-grouped to face the courtyard in front of Te Papa. By this time, their numbers had swelled to around a hundred. They were no less vocal, as National Party members, Ministers, and assorted MPs kept arriving.
When Tony Ryall walked by, I asked in a fairly loud voice,
“Mr Ryall, do you have anything to saying about a quarter of a million children living in poverty?”
I asked the question three times. He walked past, with no answer.
Towards the end of the protest, Police arrested one person – Darren – for “Offensive Behaviour”. Darren had allegedly used a can of “spray string“, aimed at National Party members. As this blogger was present and witnesssed the incident, Darren did not “spray paint” the museum, and reports to that effect are untrue.
Police were quick to move in and arrest Darren seconds after he discharged the can. As the photos clearly show, Darren was relaxed, smiling, and at no time offered any physical resistance;
Several dozen of the protesters – many holding various electronic recording devices (including this blogger, ‘armed’ with a camera and Voice Recorder) – looked on. At this point I asked one of the constables,
FM: “Are you arresting this gentleman, are you?”
Policeman: “We’re just speaking with him at this stage.”
People were watching and perhaps this kept Darren’s arrest restrained and non-violent;
As this image clearly shows, Darren was not only not resisting, but stood casually beside them and made no attempt to flee;
After being questioned, Darren was led to a ‘paddy wagon’, some few metres away;
Three minutes after my first query, as policemen held Darren’s arms behind his back, I asked,
FM: “Excuse me, is he under arrest?”
Policeman 1: “That’s up to him. That’s up to him if he wants to tell you that.”
I asked again;
FM: “Excuse me, is this gentleman under arrest?”
Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”
Policeman 2: “Are you his lawyer?”
FM: “No, no I’m not.”
Policeman: “Well don’t interfere with them, while they’re doing their job.”
FM: “No, no. No, no. Not doing anything [to interfere].”
FM: “Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with? Can anyone tell me what he’s being charged with?”
[No reply from police.]
Darren: Offensive behaviour apparently.
FM “Offensive behaviour? [to police] Is that correct?”
[No reply from police.]
Darren: “Offensive behaviour.”
Policeman: “Hey look, if you want to video, I’ll take it that’s fine, but what I’ll just ask you to do is keep your distance while we’re dealing with this? “
FM: [holding my hands up]: “Not going to touch you guys, not coming anywhere near you guys.”
Policeman: “If you could just, yeah, like I say.. that’ll be great -“
FM: “Yep, yep, arms length.”
As Darren was handcuffed, I asked, I asked Police,
FM: “Is it necessary to handcuff him? He wasn’t being violent.”
Policeman: “Standard procedure -“
FM: “It’s what, sorry? Standard procedure is it, to handcuff him?”
Policeman: ” – when we’re dealing with him.”
There seemed no apparent reason for hand-cuffing Darren. He gave no resistance, and he fully complied with their instructions.
The following three images have been brightness-enhanced, but otherwise un-retouched. They show Darren hand-cuffed; and led into the paddy-wagon;
About half an hour later, as it became apparent that no further guests were arriving to the function, the protesters packed up and moved away without further incident.
On Sunday evening, following Darren’s arrest and release, I interviewed him on-line to ascertain what had happened.
Frank: Firstly, can you tell us what happened last night [Saturday]?
Darren: I was at a protest against the 2014 National Party Conference outside of Te Papa, where National Party Members were meeting for an evening function.
Frank: Can you tell us what the protest was about?
Darren: The protest was about a number of issues that people are angry at the National based government for pushing through despite public opposition, including the selling of prospecting rights on marine reserves to foreign multinational oil companies. At approximately 7:30pm I was arrested for ‘Offensive Behaviour’.
Frank: I was present when you were arrested. You used one of those party “string” spray-cans. You weren’t spray painting Te Papa, as some reports have stated, were you?
Darren: Yes at one stage I was holding a “string” spray-can. I did not spray paint the building. I, like other protesters, was offended by the behaviour of our so-called National Museum Te Papa that allowed an undemocratic right-wing political party, who I as a Citizen of New Zealand am opposed to, to book their premises.
Frank: Indeed, many people present can vouch that the spray can you were holding was not a paint can. So, what happened when you were arrested? You were handcuffed?
Darren: When I was first arrested a police officer took hold of my arm, I did not resist. They ‘patted me down to search me and confiscated all my personal items, wallet, cellphone, flat keys etc. I was ordered to put my hands behind my back and they put metal handcuffs on me. I was then told to enter the police van, where I sat for what felt like about ten minutes. Then I was let out and told to get into the back of a police car.
Frank: I was present when that happened, Darren. There seemed to be some uncertainty that the police charged you or not. Did they say they were charging you with anything?
Darren: I asked then what they were arresting for and was told the offense was ‘Offensive Behaviour’. They started asking me questions and I told them that I was remaining silent, which is one of my ‘Miranda Rights’.
Frank: Were you still handcuffed when they transferred you into the police car?
Darren: Yes, by that stage my wrists were bruised from the cuffs. The office sitting next to me attempted to put a seat belt on me, which would not fit because of the cuffs. I told the police that the cuffs were hurting my wrists but they would not take them off until I was processed at the police station some minutes later.
Frank: Ok. So all up, how long do you think you were handcuffed for? And can you confirm that you offered no resistance whatsoever? Because when I was present from the moment they caught you, using the “string” spray can, to the point they put you in the paddy-wagon, you showed no resistance at all. Was that your behaviour later, after they transferred you to the police car?
Darren: I think I was handcuffed for about twenty minutes, although it was hard to tell exactly as one of the first things that they confiscated was my wrist watch. The only time during the whole ordeal in which I showed any resistance was near the beginning when you were nearby, the policeman took hold of my right arm, which was technically an assault. I simply shrugged to get him to loosen his grip, which did not work. From then on I offered no resistance whatsoever and I remained silent for most of the time except to answer questions about my identification and residence etc and to make some general references, ie about the weather etc which had no bearing on my conviction.
Frank: Did they take you to the station to be formally charged and processed?
Darren: Yes, to my limited knowledge, it was done by their ‘book’. They processed me, gave me the formal charge of ‘Breach of the Peace’, photographed me, asked my intimate questions about my physiological and mental health, took my shoes, my belt and my ear rings and said that all my possessions would be kept in their safe while I was put into a holding cell for two hours. I was not allowed a telephone call or to contact legal representation, even though they mentioned that the police could provide me with ‘free lawyers’.
Frank: Did you ask to contact a lawyer or anyone else?
Darren: They briefly mentioned a lawyer when they were reading me my ‘rights’. I chose to remain silent except when an officer was padding me down and confiscating all my remaining property. I told the officer that when people are that intimate with me that they normally buy me a restaurant meal and a few drinks. The offer of a lawyer was not made again, and I was photographed and then marched into a holding cell, where I was left with no food, drink or telephone for about two hours, despite me telling them that I am diabetic.
At not time during the two hours did I have access to a telephone or my cellphone, even though I do remember asking for my cellphone back
Frank: So what time were you finally released? And have you been given a date to appear in Court?
Darren: It was about 9:40pm when they returned my watch and all my possessions. I think that they were annoyed that I remained silent and did not provide any resistance. According to my Breach of Peace Release Notice: “Subsequent enquiries have now established that: *(a) No charge will be laid against you in court and you are now free to leave the Police Station, OR” (sic) The notice was signed by the officer in charge. I was then marched out the vehicle entrance of the police station and told to go directly home.
Frank: How are your hands, after being handcuffed?
Darren: I did some wrist flexing exercises in the holding cell, that I remembered from going to a gym, to get the circulation back, but they are still bruised.
Frank: Any other observations you’d care to share with us about your Police experience? Do you think their detention of you was excessive?
Darren: Yes it was excessive. They didn’t need to handcuff me, they didn’t need to take every single personal item off me – what harm could I have done with my ear rings, for example. They could have asked if I wanted a glass of water or to make a telephone call. I had an ice coffee in my satchel, which they could have asked if I wanted to drink etc. The cell had a thin rubber mattress and a metal toilet, but that was all. They also didn’t need to hold me for two hours after processing me.
Frank: Will you lay a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Authority, do you think?
Darren: Probably not. No photos were taken of my wrists and the cuffs did not draw blood or cut off the circulation. No charge was laid against me and I don’t want to aggravate the police to change that decision.
Frank: Ok. Lastly, has this put you off taking further protest action do you think?
Darren: Not at all.
Frank: So we’ll see you on the next protest action then?
Darren: It depends upon what the next action is, but if the issue is important enough I will be there.
Frank: Thanks, Darren!
Ministers really should car their ministerial limousines in legal car-parks – not just anywhere it suits them. These two were parked on a pedestrian plaza and across a motorcycle parking bay;
But I guess National ministers pretty well do whatever they like these days. The law doesn’t apply to them, obviously.
As I took these photos (on my way to my legally parked car, for which I had to pay a car-parking fee), Darren was still locked in the police paddy-wagon.
For him, the law meant hand-cuffs.
Note: apologies for poor quality of images. The camera I was using was not the one I usually use. – Frank Macskasy
Dominion Post: National Party protester arrested
Aotearoa Independent Media Centre: PAAP takes on Nats
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Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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