GPJA - complaint re police conduct on 8 December

Details of complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority on policing of TPPA demonstration

Global Peace and Justice Auckland has lodged a formal complaint with police over
their handling of the protest at the TPP negotiations last Saturday. The letter sent
to the IPCA is pasted here.

11 December 2012

David Carruthers
Independent Police Conduct Authority

Kia ora Mr Carruthers,

Complaint re police conduct on 8 December

Global Peace and Justice Auckland is hereby lodging a formal complaint regarding the
police handling of the anti-TPP protest at Auckland’s Skycity casino on 8 December
this year.

Our complaint covers four areas –

  1. The foolish and provocative actions of the senior officer in command at the protest at Skycity and again at Aotea Square.
  2. The cynical manipulation of a serious breach of police discipline to accuse the protest group of violent behaviour.
  3. Using plain clothes police, possibly agent-provocateurs, to infiltrate the protest.
  4. Passing wilfully misleading information to the public, via the media, about the action of protestors.

Regarding Point 1:
Many of us in GPJA have had many years of experience of organising and attending
demonstrations but it is several years since we have seen police leadership which
was so provocative and tactless. It was plain stupid. If police were wanting to
incite a riot they went about it the right way.

Especially provocative was the intervention of the senior sergeant in charge of the
protest to walk out and whack boxes from the hands of people who were putting the
remaining few petition boxes on the fire. It was obviously a symbolic protest and
common sense said it came from the frustration of having the agreed TPP organisers
not front up to accept the 750,000 signature petition. Fire is often part of
protests where flags are burned for example and but this seemed to be lost on
police. It was a situation where tact and diplomacy was required but there was none
on show.

This happened as myself and others were organising the protest group to leave
Federal Street together although I appreciate that at that point this may not have
been obvious to the officer in charge.

Later in Aotea Square the same officer turned up with a group of police and
proceeded to arrest a young woman. She wasn’t “asked to come quietly” but was
grabbed and manhandled on the ground by several police in a manner which caused
alarm and distress to witnesses. The timing and the manner of her arrest could
easily be predicted to lead to the near riot which resulted. In all our years of
protest we have never seen a crowd line up to abuse the police in such a manner as
happened as the police marched out of the square.

Regarding Point 2:
After the protest a senior officer was recorded from the public waiting area of the
watch house reporting to his superior that a police officer had “broken ranks” and
charged into the crowd in Federal Street to arrest someone. That was an accurate
description of what happened.

However the police statement to media said two officers had become "separated,
attacked and kicked numerous times" by protestors. This was demonstrably false as
indicated by multiple witnesses and the extensive video footage from the scene. They
had not become separated but separated themselves. They were not attacked but
attacked others and they were not kicked numerous times if at all.

Turning a breach of police discipline like this into a public attack on the protest
group was nasty, vindictive and small-minded.

Regarding Point 3:
It is provocative to have plain clothes police in demonstrations as on Saturday. If
any of the protest group dressed up as police and mingled with police they would be
arrested for attempting to impersonate police.

We do not see not much difference with police impersonating protestors (or were
other agencies involved?)

When people gather to exercise their right to protest under the Bill of Rights Act
they have a right to be treated with respect and a right not to be disrespected by
police. It follows that they have a right to expect their fellow protestors are who
they claim to be rather than possible agents of the state as occurs under
totalitarian regimes elsewhere.

Regarding Point 4:
Anyone reading the police statement and the media reports based on it could be
forgiven for believing the protest group had tried to break into the hotel, had lit
multiple fires in the street requiring fire service attention and had attacked and
injured police officers including “stomping” on one officer’s head.

This was a tissue of outrageous lies and dramatic overstatement. It appears to have
been presented to the media from the police public relations team at least partly to
disguise what was an appalling failure of policing at the protest.

The media and public have a right to expect the police will report accurately and
fairly on any situation and not use the full public relations resources of the
police to feed lies and misinformation into the public arena. To do so is to
undermine the very rights people have to engage in protest which in turn is the
oxygen on which our democracy depends.

We wish you to engage in a robust investigation of these complaints and we look
forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

John Minto
Global Peace and Justice Auckland


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