Responsibility lies with Police for violence at Auckland TPPA demonstration
Cops going for the Jugular at #D8
by Sian Robertson, Socialist Aotearoa
“John Key you've got mail, Aotearoa is not for sale!”, “when people's rights are under attack, stand up fight back!” and “TPPA, NO WAY!” - The air was electric with indignation and the deafening roar of a crowd united against a single threat, what is becoming more and more obviously a bill of rights for multi-national corporations and a takeover of working people's sovereignty., as over Five hundred protesters marched to Federal St outside Sky City in Auckland on Saturday afternoon to present a 750,000-strong international petition against the TPPA.
The TPPA is a voracious Trojan Horse of a 'trade agreement', whose real objective is the breaking down of people's power to regulate their own economies. Not only the people of countries party to the Agreement, but also the domino affect on those economies that will suffer from having to compete with the depressed wages of TPPA countries. The TPPA seeks to make way for corporate monopolies to steamroll people's rights and our ability to regulate to protect our jobs, environment, access to medicine, education, information, etc. The weak argument from Groser et al that New Zealand has to sign if we want to sell our dairy products to America is pathetic – first it's not worth it, second, it's unlikely the US dairy industry will allow the NZ one to make much of a dent in their mostly-sewn-up market anyway. As we have reiterated at every turn, the Aotearoa is Not for Sale campaign is not about kicking out foreigners. It is about fighting against private capital both here and overseas that seeks to undermine the rights and collective resources of working people.
Protesters stayed outside the conference centre, where negotiations are taking place until Wednesday, for around an hour, making a lot of noise and attracting onlookers from inside the building. But, as expected, no-one came out to receive the petition. Eventually a few people tried to push past security into the building. Police came out of the hotel entrance and lined up against the windows of the building. They clearly hadn't thought this through and were pressed between the glass wall and the throng of protesters. They seemed to be reacting out of fear because they behaved quite unprofessionally, lashing out indiscriminately. This escalated the anger of the crowd. At one point a couple of police pushed their way into the crowd and were isolated from the other officers. Presumably this was when one of them was 'assaulted'. Some cardboard boxes were piled in the middle of the street and set on fire by protesters. The fire department were called but arrived long after the flames had died out.
Children are collateral?
Several struggles broke out at once, ranging across the street. I was moving the two children in my care away from the fire and police scrum, past a trailer with a huge anti-TPPA billboard, when we were intercepted by a lurching clump of officers so thick that I couldn't see the person in the middle – it looked like they were beating each other up. I yelled at the police “watch out for the children, there are children here!” and a couple of them looked at me with disdain and continued their brawl. One officer came up to me and smugly told me it was my fault, 'if you're going to bring kids here, then it's on you.” He was standing in my path and didn't take any measures to ensure the kids' safety. He then stepped aside and when I hesitated momentarily, said, “oh so you want to put children in harm's way.” We had no reason to expect the protest would turn violent. The blame should fall squarely on police for their terrible mishandling of the situation. Fortunately I got the kids out of the way unscathed, but it was a close call. So, the moral of this story is, people with children aren't allowed to dissent. Oh wait, nobody is.
Fair and Balanced? Yeah, Right.
The sycophantic media have glossed over the fact that the violence was started by police, even though, except for a TV3 crew of two, they didn't bother to show up to report on the event, despite the public announcements and press releases sent out in advance. Several eyewitnesses reported police punching people in the face and laying body punches into protesters on the front line in attempts to move them back. One woman was arrested on Federal St.
Snatch Squads in Aotea Square.
After the protest, a smaller number of the protesters met back at Aotea Square. People were milling around in the public space when a group of about 30 police jogged into the Square and pushed through to arrest a young woman, charging her with assaulting police. This was incredibly unproductive, as it fuelled a lot more anger, including many indignant onlookers who hadn't been at the demonstration and joined in shouting at police to calm down and leave people alone. The officer in charge, Matt Rogers, made many bad calls and there will doubtless be complaints laid against the police. A couple of bystanders I talked to in the Square were shocked at the viciousness of the police and their eagerness to shove their way through an unsuspecting crowd of people to make an example of the young woman. It was about the worst example of police incompetence I've seen at any protest.
But the bottom line is, whether they are competent or not, it was clear as the beautifully sunny day that they were not on the side of justice. Far from their stated duty of serving the community and protecting us, the NZ Police are on the side of international capital, protecting the secrecy and covering the backs of private-interest negotiators so they are untouched by the outrage of the people they have come to insult and exploit. We only have rights as long as we stay at home, toe the line, work like slaves without complaining and don't ask difficult questions of our elected politicians.
Groser, Key, you have got our backs up, you have angered the beast of public opinion. You have not heard the end of this. For a start, the people of New Zealand will not stand for such blatant disregard for our right to be informed and take part in the democratic process. And this is by no means just a local phenomenon – the whole world is watching.
For a video of the evens from start to finish, unbroadcasted by the Corporate Media, see also-