Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Police behaviour over the top at US-NZ Partnership forum

At lunchtime yesterday I joined the march against the US-NZ Partnership Forum. This meeting was a motley crew of politicians and representatives from American multinationals who are pushing for a free trade agreement between the US and New Zealand. A noisy and spirited march wandered from Aotea Square to the venue of the event - the Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf.

The protest was noisy but peaceful. Despite this, the police adopted overly heavy handed tactics. They formed a line in front of the wharf entrance and the protest spread over both lanes of the entrance way, as there was nowhere else to go. While I was there police pushed demonstrators off one lane to let traffic through, even though I am sure this is not the only entrance. At this point traffic could pass in both directors using this one lane without much difficulty. Later, after I left, they pushed protesters off the remaining lane, demanding that people get behind the same a concrete barrier that the cops were pushing people against. It was at this point three people were arrested.

The police presence was complete overkill - at times there were nearly as many cops there as demonstrators. Perhaps when Auckland police commanders saw the scale of the lock down of Sydney during the recent APEC summit they had some wet dreams over the civil liberties they would like to trample and push aside.

Many demonstrators challenged the police to justify exactly whose interests they were protecting. To give one example, one participant at the forum was Richard Armitage, former US Deputy Secretary of State. Armitage was one of the neo-cons who put his name to the "Project for a New American Century" letter to Bill Clinton in 1998 that advocated for a war on Iraq on the basis of Saddam Hussein continuing to stockpile weapons of mass destruction. There were no such weapons, and the war on Iraq was illegal under international law. Armitage was the US Deputy Secretary of State during this war.

While the police were arresting people for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer (despite no doubt making some technical assaults themselves), perhaps it would have been a pipe dream for them to consider the situation with a little more perspective, and understand why people were upset to have war criminals in the country. It could be said they turned their back on suspects that could potentially face much more serious charges.

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