Join the Revolution

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Plato versus the Police.


Eyewitness to Police Brutality, from Linda M, Socialist Aotearoa.  
This report is based on what I personally observed. I was present for the entire protest and recorded much of it. I have also seen recordings of other parts I did not directly witness, and spoke to many students involved, from the very start, all the way to the concluding meeting in the Quad after 7PM.

To make it absolutely clear, I saw no violence or provocation from the students whatsoever at any time during the protest. I do not consider shouting and moving about to be violent or provocative, but are natural to protests. The students were severely provoked, but they kept it together, and were incredibly disciplined. I was very proud of them and their good conduct.

Initially, there were more than 1000 students, though only a quarter were actively participating in the action. The rest were just observing. Though the police were surrounded, the students were not menacing the police in any way. The sit-down was very orderly, and when police drew perimeters, the students respected them, even going so far as to walk around the block to cross the street. The students were in no way a threat to the police.

The peaceful intentions of the students were very clear from the start. A large sound system was brought, and Dr. Campbell Jones attempted to deliver a teach-in on Plato. However as soon as Dr. Jones began to read, the police moved in on the students, which caused an immediate ruckus, and Dr. Jones' lecture was drowned out. That appeared to me to be a deliberate move by the police to disrupt the event.

The students were systematically arrested one by one for "blocking the road", yet it was the police vehicles which were blocking one half of the road, the half where the students were. On the other half of the road the students allowed traffic to continue, and for a time buses and cars traveled down the road, but the police stopped them. Cones could have been set up earlier and traffic directed around the students. There was no need to block off the entire street. At no time did the students block both sides of the road except when trying to cross Symonds street en masse. Even afterward, after they went onto Queen Street, the students remained respectful of drivers. Students brought traffic cones with them to help keep good order on the roads and prevent drivers from being confused. That showed a lot of intelligence and foresight on their part.

From the outset, until they finally decamped, a minority of police officers were very aggressive, making it appear as if the majority were violent. Two officers in particular were throwing dangerous punches, and one young woman, Rachel, the first to be arrested was being choked as she was dragged off. She had not been aggressive or provocative in any way. This incident was recorded.

I would also like to say I was particularly distressed to see Omar punched in the throat the way he was. He did not retaliate in any way, he just shrugged it off, but he could have been very seriously injured.

Tom also got punched from what I could see, but he did not respond in kind either.

Nico was also bleeding from the forehead, though I did not see that incident, I understand it was due to having his head pressed into the street with excessive force.

The police were just over the top. There was no need for that. Their violence did not accomplish anything except energize the students and make them more determined.

Had the police allowed the teach-in to take place, I believe that the students would not have left the area, and would have drifted off before 5. Instead, the students were very agitated after the high number of arrests and the attempts by the police to thwart their activities. Driven away from Symonds street, they went searching for an outlet for their energies and to protest in other locations. However, though there was a lot of running and stopping and blockading, there was no property damage or aggression at any time throughout their procession. The students protested at Central Police Station, twice in Queen Street and at Sky City without incident. I do not believe a single public complaint has been filed against them.

The students are to be commended for their discipline, in spite of severe provocation. I am sure that provided the Police do not do worse next time, the students will continue to be peaceful in their campaign. The students have a right to protest, they have genuine grievances that need to be heard, and they should be allowed to hold their blockades without fear of being injured.

No comments: