Saturday, 27 Oct 2007

Nationwide protests against anti-terror op

By EMMA PAGE - Sunday Star Times | Saturday, 27 October 2007
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LATEST: Protesters in 13 centres around the country have rallied in a national day of action opposing the police raids nearly two weeks ago and calling for those arrested to be immediately released on bail.

In Auckland more than 300 people gathered in Aotea square, cheered Rongomai Bailey who was one of those picked up in the dawn swoops and is one of a handful on bail.

The crowd had swelled to more than 1000 by the time it reached its destination of Mt Eden prison.

After some speeches at the prison, the crowd headed to the remand wing to make more noise.

Chanting "stand up fight back when human rights are under attack", the crowd called for no charges to be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act against the 17 arrested and for the Act to be repealed.

Veteran protestor John Minto told them "We are not a terrorist target. We don't have terrorists in New Zealand and the use of the terrorism act is really just a breach of our civil rights."

Led by Tuhoe visiting from the Bay of Plenty, protesters marched through the centre city towards Mt Eden prison where most of those arrested are being held on remand.

Charges against the 17 people arrested have been laid under the Arms Act but they could face terrorism charges if the police decide to use the Terrorism Suppression Act for the first time.

So far only five of the people arrested can be named. They are Maori activist Tame Iti, his newphew Rawiri Iti, Auckland activist Jamie Beattie Lockett, documentary-maker Rongomai Bailey and Auckland University student Omar Hamed.

Senior Sergeant Tony Edwards said a police presence was there to help escort the protestors to the prison. He was not expecting any trouble. A website has been set up as part of a nationwide support campaign for the people arrested in the police raids. The message board on the site, Civil Rights Defense, has postings voicing sympathy and support from around the world including Canada, America, Australia and South Africa.

"On behalf of the 55,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal workers I am writing to condemn the criminalization and attempted silencing of activists in Aotearoa," reads one entry.

Demonstrations were held in Auckland, Hamilton, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch with an event organised in Dunedin today. Protests were also held in Australia, England and the United States.

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