Global day of action against state terror in Aotearoa / New Zealand

Just wrote this for the next issue of the Earth First! Journal, based in the USA.

Global day of action against state terror in Aotearoa / New Zealand

Demonstrations and protests were held around the world on August 30th for the global day of action to ‘Drop the Charges’ against the 20 people arrested in the nationwide State Terror Raids of 15 October 2007 in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

On Monday, October 15th 2007, more than 300 police carried out dawn raids on dozens of houses all over Aotearoa / New Zealand. Police claim the raids were in response to ‘concrete terrorist threats’ from indigenous activists. The reality, however, included heavily armed police terrorising an entire township. To date, no evidence of the so-called terrorist plot has been revealed.

Police arrested 16  indigenous, anarchist, environmental and anti-war activists, including Tuhoe, Te Atiawa, Maniapoto, Nga Puhi (all Maori iwi, or tribes) and Pakeha (non-indigenous) people (a further person faced unrelated drugs charges stemming from a raid on his house). Police wanted to charge 12 people under the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA), however the Solicitor-General denied the police permission to proceed. After four weeks in jail everyone was released on bail. On Tuesday, February 19th 2008, police raided further properties, arresting 3 more men. All were released on bail with strict conditions that same day. A woman was arrested on Thursday April 17th, 2008, and also faces charges under the Arms Act.

The 20 arrestees face hundreds of charges of illegally possessing firearms and molotov cocktails. This is despite the face that only a handful of weapons (many legally owned and registered) were found during the extensive police raids, while many of the firearms people have been charged with possessing have never been proven to even exist.

On a cold and miserable day, the cries of “No More Police State!” echoed through central Auckland’s as over 200 Maori, trade unionists and left wingers joined a rally to defend the Urewewa 20, and remember the State Terror Raids of October 15th last year. Images and Sounds were projected against the court house in support of the Global Day Action. International indigenous support was present with First Nations manuhiri (guests) from Turtle Island (Americas). 150 people went on a lively march through the capital city, Wellington, and stopped at the police station for a shaming history of their violence, and a pass-by of Labour Party candidate Grant Robertson’s office nearly resulted in a very large broken window.

Overseas, banners were hung and fliers were handed out in Hamburg, Freiburg and Berlin (Germany), Basel and Lausanne (Switzerland), the Congo and Melbourne (Australia) in support of the call to drop the charges. Fundraisers and awareness raising events were also held in Vancouver (Canada) and  Tucson (USA). Many international groups also signed on to the solidarity statement prepared by the October 15th Solidarity collective, which can be seen at http://october15thsolidarity.info/en/node/332

Court Update

September 1st  saw the start of the depositions hearing, a pre-trial hearing where the crown presents its evidence and the Judge rules on whether there is enough for the charges to proceed to trial. At the time of writing, this hearing (now into its fifth week) is still ongoing, and it is still unclear what the outcome will be.

Early in the hearing, the judge issued extensive suppression orders, making it illegal (potentially punishable by an indefinite jail sentence and/or an unlimited fine) to discuss anything that is said or occurs inside the courtroom – this includes media (corporate and independent), public talks, leaflets and anything else you can imagine.

During the course of the hearing, Police have conducted an intimidation campaign against the arrestees and their supporters. On September 9, one of the arrestees and his partner were arrested, after Police accused the arrestee of scratching the car of Aaron Pascoe, the lead officer in the raids. Both were bailed after several hours in the cell (and face charges of wilful damage, assaulting police and resisting arrest), however the partner was not allowed to breast-feed her young baby while she was in the cells for over 4 hours.

More background information on the raids and the issues surrounding them, regular updates on the court hearings and information on how you can show your solidarity with the arrestees is available at http://www.october15thsolidarity.info

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