Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Scuffling and screaming on The Left

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  • Margaret B,

    Russell, I could understand and probably agree with your argument here, if it wasn't for the broader context of what has been going on between police and activist communities in the last few weeks.

    Activists are angry that their houses have been raided, some at gun point, at dawn, people have been arrested, bail has been denied despite the fact that it appears it should have been granted under the new Act, people are being labelled terrorists when to date there is little evidence to support that.

    Many of those supporting the people arrested, some of whom are still in jail and have been moved to another city, are incredibly frustrated with both the police and the prison system - for example, you have to write to the exact right address of the prison your friend is in, in order to get a letter to them. In the case of Auckland Central Remand there appear to be three different addresses listed, meaning in order to be sure your letter gets through you have to send three copies. Not to mention the totally different policies on visiting, putting money into prisoners' accounts, and much more, from each different prison. I recommend people check out Maia's blog for an insight into the difficulties involved.

    Imagine that you then go to a protest about the issue, feeling is high, but generally ok. There is a heavy police presence and a high level of resentment, but things are not out of hand. Then a Labour delegate wades in, hits someone with a megaphone, and pushes his way out through the police line, without any response from the police. Instead a protester who confronts this delegate is dragged away, pushed to the ground face down, and arrested. Of course the temperature went up considerably after this, and, as has been pointed out in another thread, Good Policing would have got it back under control through showing restraint.

    Perhaps sometimes we expect super human responses from our police. But given the context swirling around yesterday's protest - the raids and arrests, Greg O'Connor calling for tasers and denying the Bazley report showed any problem with the police culture, shooting a man with a hammer dead, and of course the distrust in the force that has grown out of events related to Louise Nicholas and other women - I think that at the least the police could have been even handed yesterday. If they weren't going to arrest Richards for hitting two people with a megaphone, why were they willing to arrest protesters for lesser offences?

    Since Oct 2007 • 59 posts Report Reply

  • Malcolm,

    Richards' five-minutes-old party membership should be in question now -- it'd be good riddance, given the damage he's done -- and he has only himself to blame if the police do decide to prosecute for assault.

    Um. What about Trevor Mallard then?

    Since Apr 2007 • 69 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Imagine that you then go to a protest about the issue, feeling is high, but generally ok. There is a heavy police presence and a high level of resentment, but things are not out of hand. Then a Labour delegate wades in, hits someone with a megaphone, and pushes his way out through the police line, without any response from the police.

    I hold no brief for Richards -- I'm quite happy to see him charged and/or expelled, whatever -- but the confrontation was at least in part a result of the atmosphere generated by the protesters.

    Would it have killed them to stop screaming "Scab! Scab! Scab!" for a moment and actually listen to Ovens, who was, after all, on their side?

    There was no need for Phillips and Davies to advance on Richards either.

    Instead a protester who confronts this delegate is dragged away, pushed to the ground face down, and arrested.

    Rightly or wrongly, he did more than "confront" Richards. He physically grappled with him, and it'd probably have turned into a fight. The cops clearly needed to step in, but not to arrest him -- but that's the kind of spur of the moment decision they have to make.

    If you watch the extended TV3 video, you can see that the cops were actually quite patient with him, given that he was resisting. And their composure when they had a crew following them to the van shouting obscenities was quite remarkable.

    Of course the temperature went up considerably after this, and, as has been pointed out in another thread, Good Policing would have got it back under control through showing restraint.

    That's my point. Look at the footage and tell me they didn't show a whole heap of restraint, over quite an extended period. I just get a bit tired of protesters crying victim when they're the ones generating the aggression.

    If they weren't going to arrest Richards for hitting two people with a megaphone, why were they willing to arrest protesters for lesser offences?

    What I said in the post. I'm not sure they actually grasped what had happened. To be honest, it's not even clear in the video that the megaphone did strike Phillips in the face, although the intent was amply bad in itself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A New Zealand passport holder is arrested on suspicion of planning a high-level assassination. He is now critically ill after being viciously beaten by the arresting officers.

    But this didn't happen in New Zealand: it happened in Fiji, at the hands of the police thugs controlled by Tame Iti's good buddy and recent gracious host, Mr Bainimarama.

    Ironic, no?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    That was a bloody dangerous thing to do: he could have seriously hurt someone. Fortunately, the video footage suggests that Phillips fended off the swing and wasn't struck square in the face.

    Just like it was fortunate Mallard wasn't captured on film.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just like it was fortunate Mallard wasn't captured on film.

    Well at least that might have settled all the who-started-it blathering since.

    But I think this was much more dangerous than whatever Mallard did -- if Phillips hadn't got his arm up it'd have been broken facial bones territory.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Agreed, I'm just a little pissed of about how how there's no mention of counseling, demotion or that the other block is a fuck-wit anyway.

    This is what I think I mean about MANA being complicated stuff.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I hold no brief for Richards -- I'm quite happy to see him charged and/or expelled, whatever -- but the confrontation was at least in part a result of the atmosphere generated by the protesters.

    Richards behaviour is explicable, but not excusable. And it's very hard to escape the impression that because Trevor Mallard has more-or-less gotten away with it (sure, he's been somewhat demoted and he's lost his favourite toys - Sport and RWC - but he's still in Cabinet with heavy hitting portfolios), that there's a level of tolerance for a bit of biffo in the Labour party.

    I think that the police have done okay, in this situation., 'tho I will be very angry if Richards isn't charged.

    Physical violence is simply not acceptable as a response to verbal taunting, even quite aggressive verbal taunting.

    And I don't think it really matters how long Richards has been a member of the Labour party. He's a delegate at the conference, which implies a level of acceptance and responsibility within the party. So now, for the second time within just over a week, a member of the Labour party has responded to verbal taunts / aggression with physical violence.

    Get a grip, guys.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    When did New Zealanders get stuck on TRANSMIT?

    Since Jul 2007 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • DPF,

    It was good popcorn, thank you very much.

    I'll actually defend Clark a bit on the issue of backing the Police. If people are going to prejudge the cases and have protest marches, and condemn the Police non stop, I don't have a problem with the PM saying that the alleged facts in these cases are very disturbing.

    It would be better if neither side was commenting, but that is not going to happen.

    However what is intriguing is why Clark is now getting more robust in her defence of the Police. She absolutely refused to comment for the first week or so. Has she been briefed by the Minister (who gets briefed by his Police secondee) as to the strength of the evidence, and she now thinks there is less risk in backing the Police?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Richards behaviour is explicable, but not excusable. And it's very hard to escape the impression that because Trevor Mallard has more-or-less gotten away with it (sure, he's been somewhat demoted and he's lost his favourite toys - Sport and RWC - but he's still in Cabinet with heavy hitting portfolios), that there's a level of tolerance for a bit of biffo in the Labour party.

    Quite. Which applies a thick layer of extra badness to what he's done. I just find it a bit ironic that this was a nasty little scrap that basically took place some way to the Left of the Labour mainstream, amongst former comrades. As Craig pointed out on another thread, it's a family squabble.

    But if we're going to agree that there was no excuse for what Richards did, I'd have to take issue with Margaret when she makes excuses for the abusive and aggressive behaviour of some of the protesters. The fact that they're whingeing about "police provocation" is farcical. They, too, need to own their own shit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It was good popcorn, thank you very much.

    I was going to pop in and wish you well with it. If ever there was a prime schadenfreude opportunity ...

    However what is intriguing is why Clark is now getting more robust in her defence of the Police. She absolutely refused to comment for the first week or so. Has she been briefed by the Minister (who gets briefed by his Police secondee) as to the strength of the evidence, and she now thinks there is less risk in backing the Police?

    That's one theory. It's certainly a notable shift of tone from her.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've just posted Graeme's third guest post: Not quite everything you ever wanted to know about bail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Re Clark: Young quotes her as saying "I totally defend their right, indeed their duty, to act when they believe public safety is imperilled." I find that perfectly ok. That's a statement of fact about the role of police in our country.

    What riled me earlier in the week was when she referred peoples' activities as though they were facts. Unlike DPF, she didn't use the word "alleged."

    What Young quotes her as saying is the line she should have been taking all along.

    Re the conduct of protesters: I have to say I find them utterly frustrating. I understand people are angry - I'm angry. I understand the urge to Do Something. What I don't understand is how anything can be helped by street theatre and confrontation.

    Demonstrations, ostensibly, are to demonstrate something. Eg, how many people care, how much they care. If you pull it off, people who formerly didn't care or who thought they were alone will join you. On current form, they're well on the way to demonstrating to the rest of New Zealand that support for the prisoners is something for dickheads.

    Read the comments on Indymedia, and you can see they're like a sort of theatre criticism. You looked great at that demo, darling! There doesn't seem to be any sense of what is to be accomplished outside of presenting a spectacle. I have not attended any gatherings in support of the accused, even though I do support them, (or at least one of them anyway), because of this kind of attitude. "Bring your rage!" Well no thank you, I would prefer to bring my boring, bourgeois concern for our civil rights.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    But if we're going to agree that there was no excuse for what Richards did, I'd have to take issue with Margaret when she makes excuses for the abusive and aggressive behaviour of some of the protesters.

    I thought Margaret's analysis was spot on. And I thought it was oriented to explanation, not excuses.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Read the comments on Indymedia, and you can see they're like a sort of theatre criticism. You looked great at that demo, darling! There doesn't seem to be any sense of what is to be accomplished outside of presenting a spectacle.

    Sigh ... I spent several hours on a Sunday trying to nail it down -- and you just put it much better than me.

    This is what I found so bizarre: that they had people there who were emphatically on their side: who were going inside to put their grievances. But they couldn't stop protesting long enough to actually co-operate and achieve something.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Me too, Stephen. I'm damned if I am going to allow my justifiable concern for our civil rights to be turned into some kind of "bring down the state" yelling and screaming. In any case, I'm still prepared to wait for the evidence to come out before making a judgement about the Urewera 16, 'tho it would be very nice if that evidence was to come out SOON.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I thought Margaret's analysis was spot on. And I thought it was oriented to explanation, not excuses.

    I fear the difference is in the eye of the beholder. I really don't think one incident justifies all the subsequent stupidity and aggression; and it certainly doesn't justify all the self-serving whingeing after the fact about having been "provoked".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I'm damned if I am going to allow my justifiable concern for our civil rights to be turned into some kind of "bring down the state" yelling and screaming.

    Me neither. I have a seven year old child that attends a state school just for starters.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4414 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Thank you.

    And as long as I'm going with the theatre metaphor, specifically, it's amateur theatre. The kind that's done for the participants, not the audience.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    Regarding the comments from politicians on the security raids.

    It is interesting to note that National, and Labour have been very reserved in their public comments. Compare this to the Greens and the Maori Party who have been somewhat more forthright with their opinions.

    Now remember both Key and Clark were briefed ahead of the police operation while the minor parties were not. It kind of stands to reason they might be keeping shtum because they know things that the others don't.

    And as for the Labour Party conference fracas well I guess it'll be more fertile ground for political humour (eg "it was a smashing success" or "delegates really hit it off").

    Well done to the camera blokes that caught it all on tape though - it so deals to all the spin and excuses that are inevitably forthcoming in such cases.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I hold no brief for Richards -- I'm quite happy to see him charged and/or expelled, whatever -- but the confrontation was at least in part a result of the atmosphere generated by the protesters.

    Would it have killed them to stop screaming "Scab! Scab! Scab!" for a moment and actually listen to Ovens, who was, after all, on their side?

    No it wouldn't have, but just to play devil's advocate how the hell does someone with Ovens' experience in the union movement read a crowd that badly? I'm not holding her personally responsible for her partner's arsehole-ism, but WTF was she thinking? Might have been a little more welcome - and effective - if she'd had the ovaries to stand up and say her piece on the conference floor, in front of both Clark and the press bench. Of course, she'd have been tarred, feathered and run out of the Bruce Mason on a rail ...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    I loathe violence. But I wouldn't object to somebody giving the megaphone man a wee slap with a copy of the speech Michael Cullen delivered at the conference today. This is the news we could have been talking about instead:

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0711/S00042.htm

    Perhaps if Cullen had actually worn that bikini ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    This is the news we could have been talking about instead:

    Why? Michael Cullen sez we rock, the Tories are Blue Meanies, vote for us or the puppy gets it - what a shock. I expect Bill English to be throwing exactly the same soundbites of partisan raw meat to the party faithful at his next party conference, and expect to be equally indifferent.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    No it wouldn't have, but just to play devil's advocate how the hell does someone with Ovens' experience in the union movement read a crowd that badly?

    It's easy to say that with hindsight, but I don't think she did anything wrong, apart from muttering the words "you stupid ..." when she realised they weren't going to stop chanting at her.

    Of course, if she hadn't tried to talk to the protesters, the narrative would have been that she scuttled away to the safety of the venue, afraid to face the crowd. Or something.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22839 posts Report Reply

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