NZ "terrorism" in perspective   |   Indigenous peoples' rights

Protesters march on capital

14 November 2007

About 400 mainly Maori protesters gathered at Parliament before marching down Lambton Quay to the Te Puni Kokiri offices where a haka was performed.

The crowd was calm and peaceful and there was a low-key police presence. The protesters - awash with flags and placards, some reading "stop racism" - then reassembled at Midland Park before returning to Parliament, where fireworks were let off.

A number of MPs spoke at the hikoi including Taito Phillip Field, Pita Sharples, Keith Locke and Labour's Parekura Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta.

The two Labour MPs were booed by the crowd while embattled MP Taito Phillip Field was cheered after he told those in attendance he did not believe Tuhoe residents had been treated well.

"I do not think the people of Tuhoe have got a fair deal. There are stupid things said in New Zealand and all over the world but that does not forgive paranoia."

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said she did not have an agenda coming along to the protest march but "I can understand why the Tuhoe people are so angry."

The protest ended with an angry confrontation with police outside Police Commissioner Howard Broad's Thorndon office.

Three rows of stony-faced police blocked the building's entrance.

The angry crowd shouted abuse and chanted "Who are the terrorists? Pirihimana!" (police)

Ngati Tuhoe elder Te Weeti Tihi delivered a rousing speech calling on the Ruatoki community to stand up against police oppression.

"The police will be your friends today and arrest you tomorrow.

"We will be telling our children, and our children's children, to never forget what they have done to Tuhoe."

A couple of protesters spat at police and shouted in their faces, but were quickly told to "get back" by others.

Ironically, the loudest cheers were for a blonde pakeha woman.

Valerie Morse is one of those facing firearms charges as a result of the Ruatoki raids.

"I am under no illusion that these arrests are motivated by fear," she told the crowd.

"What happened in Ruatoki was an attack on all Maori and it is time for us to rise up against those who will not accept Maori self-determination."

The protesters finished up their hikoi just after 3pm and retired to the marae on Thorndon Quay for a lunch.

Earlier, at Parliament, several young men had their faces covered with bandanas. There were also about a dozen children in the crowd, two of them dressed in army fatigue.

The protesters said the anti-terrorism legislation was unnecessary and racist.

Wellington Police said they are monitoring the progress of the hikoi to ensure the safety of all road users.

Inspector Peter Cowan, said police stopped the driver of one of the cars just north of Paraparaumu because he was driving on the wrong side of the road.

"Officers spoke to people involved at the scene, and the driver will be issued with a traffic summons," he said.

"The vehicle then rejoined the hikoi."

The hikoi began last week in Ruatoki, Bay of Plenty, where police conducted their raids on "terror" suspects.

But the protesters are a day too late to stop the Suppression of Terrorism Amendment Act, which passed its third reading by 108 votes to 13 late yesterday.

Labour and National supported the legislation, while the Greens, ACT and the Maori Party opposed it.

The new law extends the power of the United Nations to designate terrorist entities that will also apply in New Zealand.

It creates a new offence of committing a terrorist act, which is punishable by life in prison.

It also removes a defence of funding a terrorist entity if the donor was motivated by human rights or democratic concerns.

After terrorism charges were rejected by Solicitor-General David Collins last week, the Government said it would ask the Law Commission to review the Arms Act and the Crimes Act as well to consider whether the police should have wider powers of interception to prosecute cases of alleged domestic terrorism, rather than rewrite the Terrorism Suppression Act.

ACT leader Rodney Hide said the legislation was "fascist" and allowed people to be locked up without charge.

"This bill does away with the fundamental rights of every New Zealander," he said.

Green MP Keith Locke said it was false to claim the law was necessary to meet New Zealand's international obligations.

"The only reason the bill has been pushed through is to introduce a whole new offence of a terrorist act with a life penalty that hasn't existed in the legislation before," he said.

"It is wrong to introduce this bill today when the whole act is being reviewed and has been deemed by the Solicitor-General to be incoherent.

"Why do we make a bad act even worse, which is what the Parliament is doing today?"

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the review did not apply to the act passed yesterday.

"The particular bill that's before Parliament has to go through, because the previous legislation expires, and it is the intention of New Zealand governments to comply with UN conventions where we have that international obligation," she told reporters.

National's foreign affairs spokesman, Murray McCully, said the new law bore no relation to the recent arrests, but this was not the end of the matter.

"The events of the past few weeks will, at best, have caused serious doubts at worst, some loss of confidence in the institutions and processes by which this country is protected from serious disorder," he said. "We cannot merely leave matters where they stand."

Organisers of today's hikoi will get the cold shoulder from Clark, who said she would not meet the protesters.

Organisers of the march said numbers had swollen to about 150 after protesters passed through Palmerston North, marching on the town square waving placards and Maori sovereignty flags.

During Question Time yesterday, Labour MP Pete Hodgson said that those who accused the police of racism over the raids ignored the fact that of the 16 charged, only six were Maori and just three were Tuhoe.

"Nearly every member of Tuhoe is not involved in this," he said.

Erin Parke and Colin Espiner

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