GPJA – complaint re police conduct on 8 December


Wednesday, 12 December 2012, 12:53 pm
Press Release: Global Peace And Justice Auckland

GPJA – complaint re police conduct on 8 December

Global Peace and Justice Auckland has lodged a formal complaint with police over their handling of the protest at the TPP negotiations last Saturday. The letter sent to the IPCA is pasted here.
11 December 2012

David Carruthers
Independent Police Conduct Authority

Kia ora Mr Carruthers,

Complaint re police conduct on 8 December

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is hereby lodging a formal complaint regarding the police handling of the anti-TPP protest at Auckland’s Skycity casino on 8 December this year.

Our complaint covers four areas –

1. The foolish and provocative actions of the senior officer in command at the protest at Skycity and again at Aotea Square.
2. The cynical manipulation of a serious breach of police discipline to accuse the protest group of violent behaviour.
3. Using plain clothes police, possibly agent-provocateurs, to infiltrate the protest.
4. Passing wilfully misleading information to the public, via the media, about the action of protestors.

Regarding Point 1: 
Many of us in GPJA have had many years of experience of organising and attending demonstrations but it is several years since we have seen police leadership which was so provocative and tactless. It was plain stupid. If police were wanting to incite a riot they went about it the right way.

Especially provocative was the intervention of the senior sergeant in charge of the protest to walk out and whack boxes from the hands of people who were putting the remaining few petition boxes on the fire. It was obviously a symbolic protest and common sense said it came from the frustration of having the agreed TPP organisers not front up to accept the 750,000 signature petition. Fire is often part of protests where flags are burned for example and but this seemed to be lost on police. It was a situation where tact and diplomacy was required but there was none on show.

This happened as myself and others were organising the protest group to leave Federal Street together although I appreciate that at that point this may not have been obvious to the officer in charge.

Later in Aotea Square the same officer turned up with a group of police and proceeded to arrest a young woman. She wasn’t “asked to come quietly” but was grabbed and manhandled on the ground by several police in a manner which caused alarm and distress to witnesses. The timing and the manner of her arrest could easily be predicted to lead to the near riot which resulted. In all our years of protest we have never seen a crowd line up to abuse the police in such a manner as happened as the police marched out of the square.

Regarding Point 2:
After the protest a senior officer was recorded from the public waiting area of the watch house reporting to his superior that a police officer had “broken ranks” and charged into the crowd in Federal Street to arrest someone. That was an accurate description of what happened.

However the police statement to media said two officers had become “separated, attacked and kicked numerous times” by protestors. This was demonstrably false as indicated by multiple witnesses and the extensive video footage from the scene. They had not become separated but separated themselves. They were not attacked but attacked others and they were not kicked numerous times if at all.

Turning a breach of police discipline like this into a public attack on the protest group was nasty, vindictive and small-minded.

Regarding Point 3:
It is provocative to have plain clothes police in demonstrations as on Saturday. If any of the protest group dressed up as police and mingled with police they would be arrested for attempting to impersonate police.

We do not see not much difference with police impersonating protestors (or were other agencies involved?)

When people gather to exercise their right to protest under the Bill of Rights Act they have a right to be treated with respect and a right not to be disrespected by police. It follows that they have a right to expect their fellow protestors are who they claim to be rather than possible agents of the state as occurs under totalitarian regimes elsewhere.

Regarding Point 4:
Anyone reading the police statement and the media reports based on it could be forgiven for believing the protest group had tried to break into the hotel, had lit multiple fires in the street requiring fire service attention and had attacked and injured police officers including “stomping” on one officer’s head.

This was a tissue of outrageous lies and dramatic overstatement. It appears to have been presented to the media from the police public relations team at least partly to disguise what was an appalling failure of policing at the protest.

The media and public have a right to expect the police will report accurately and fairly on any situation and not use the full public relations resources of the police to feed lies and misinformation into the public arena. To do so is to undermine the very rights people have to engage in protest which in turn is the oxygen on which our democracy depends.

We wish you to engage in a robust investigation of these complaints and we look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

John Minto
Global Peace and Justice Auckland

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