Last Sunday, I spent a couple of hours with my freedom tribe. Men and women with heart, soul, spirit and integrity. My faith in humanity was restored. Amongst that tribe, I still see anger, rage even, grief and sorrow, but also pride in the part we played. We are a microcosm of the whole freedom community. There is still much work to be done to heal and move forward. But never doubt that we will.
It’s been a week since I last wrote and 10 days since the day that some have dubbed Black Wednesday, and others think of as the day their heart broke. I’ve been worn out, have had some family stuff going on, but mostly I haven’t been able to get my head around how to say what I want to say, without giving in fully to my bias. How can I give an alternative view of what happened, without pointing blame?
Today I want to consider the police and their part in what happened; that many experienced as betrayal. Is that too strong a word? I have a lot of questions, some opinions, but not really many answers. This might take a while, so if you feel so inclined, this song from the Clash, from my distant youth, might be a suitable background track while you read. Head banging is encouraged.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE POLICE?
My understanding is that the police have two roles. The oath they take as a constable is to protect the peace and protect the citizens. However, when they are acting as police officers, they are acting to uphold the law. Or rather statutes, which are often very different to natural law, or what some of us might call morality. No conflict of interest there, right?
Police Commissioner Coster says he has the intent that policing is by consent, to have the trust and confidence of all. I downloaded this from their website last year, but I can’t find it there any more.
WAS THE PROTEST LEGAL?
This is a loaded question. Parliament grounds are public areas, are they not? Other protests have been legal, right? But the government say this one wasn’t. Some iwi say it wasn’t. But Ngati Tama say that they have the rights to the land, and they gave permission for the protest to be there.
Don’t ask me who is right, I have no idea. But what I can see is that it is debatable.
I can’t help but think of the quote by Thomas Jefferson “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”. So which is more important, legality or standing for justice?
We also need to remember that the campers in the Cathedral grounds were given permission to be there. So if other people went into that area, destroying private property, isn’t THAT the illegal activity?
DID THE PROTEST HAVE TO BE ENDED?
Some of the possible reasons it needed to end…
“Illegal” – not proven, see above
“You made your point, now go home” – well, clearly we hadn’t made our point.
“Making a mess of Parliament grounds” – that’s a matter of opinion, surely? Many people experienced it as something quite delightful. And I believe there was a team of landscapers and gardeners lined up to return the grounds to their original condition when the camp ended. Something they never got a chance to do.
“River of filth, blah, blah, blah…” – there were portaloos being cleaned three times a day, toilets were built that were plumbed directly into the sewage system, some showers were donated, many people were on cleaning detail, the council were taking the rubbish away. At least they were till the police stopped them happening, or destroyed them. Hmm…
“Blocking traffic” – Yes, it is true that some streets were closed. One block of Molesworth Street, and about half each of Aitken Street and Kate Sheppard Place. Well, until the police came and put in concrete blacks. After that it was the block of Molesworth Street, all of Kate Sheppard Place, all of Aitken Street, a chunk of Lambton Quay, Bunny Street, and some of Hill St. Are we seeing a pattern here? To be fair, a WPC told me that they were letting residents and workers through, and those people thanked them because they then felt safer. I’ll address safety in a minute.
“Businesses had to close” – remember I walked the area a few days into the occupation and found very few businesses even in the area? And didn’t the owner of the Back Bencher say that his business wasn’t currently viable anyway, due to the red traffic light system? If there were other businesses in town who closed, did they have to? Or might they have found, as many businesses who stayed open did, that they had better business? I suspect the accommodation places that had a bunch of extra guests were not complaining.
“Lack of safety” – It does seem that there was some safety issues on the outer edges of the protest. The security details did their best to find out who it was to stop it. Nobody knows whether it was misguided protestors, random nutters, or infiltrators, and we never will. But that is something that police could have done something about. They could have talked to the people who been affected to figure out how to keep them safe. And we also don’t know how much of it was people feeling unsafe because the media told them to.
On balance, it seems that many of the issues with the camp being there were caused by government, police or media. Not saying it was perfect, but it also was not what it was painted to be.
DID IT HAVE TO BE ENDED THAT DAY?
I have seen a letter from the Maori Government that says a hui had been planned for the following weekend, to discuss how the situation could be resolved. If that letter is genuine, the question of why it was ended how it was, is a massive one.
WAS VIOLENCE JUSTIFIED?
Many people really seem to think that beating unarmed people was restrained and justified. They believe that the police had been abused and so it’s ok. Let’s look at some of what was observed during the protest.
- The general atmosphere was of peace and love
- When police moved in the harass the protestors, that was the protestors’ chant
- When lined up in confrontation, the protestors often turned their backs
- On other occasions, when face to face, conversations were held on the front line, and some police gave a nod to indicate when they were about to push
- A young WPC I spoke to said the atmosphere was good, and they could see there were agitators who were not part of the protest
- Police were being continually told that they were loved and being asked to stand with their people
- There is a video of a policeman on patrol confirming that the vibe was nice, and he had seen no children in any danger
- There is a photo of another policeman sitting on one of the concrete blocks, playing guitar to a young boy
- Children offered cards of thanks to police on one day
- The camp rejoiced for the police when their mandates were lifted
Agreed that it was a stressful situation for them, and I can only imagine how tiring and boring it must have been, standing for hours at a time. But these were internal police directives, rather than crowd abuse.
Sure, there might have been occasions that someone hot headed mouthed off. But that would have been the exception rather than the rule. On the whole, the majority of the officers were respected by the community.
A handful of bad cops doesn’t taint the whole force, and a handful of infiltrators shouldn’t taint a whole protest.
WAS THERE VIOLENCE FROM THE CROWD?
MSM made a few fantastical claims about time to time, none of which were substantiated as far as I can see. There were no nooses, and no weapons. Nobody I’ve spoken to, who was there that day, saw anything even resembling a pitchfork, as was claimed.
The first time any violence came from the crowd was after the police had moved in and started being abusive. I saw some fire extinguishers being used, but nothing else till after the first fire was lit. Even mainstream sources are admitting that the riotous behaviour on the latter part of that day was after the protestors had been driven out, and was probably not from members of the group.
Maybe the better question is – who were the violent members of the crowd? Were they genuine protestors, maybe driven to their limits? Were they trouble makers with their own agendas? Were they Antifa? Or were they police plants?
HOW WERE THE POLICE ARMED?
The police, on the other hand, came to the fray, against unarmed, peaceful protestors with:
- Riot shields, which handily double as quite nasty weapons. A few bashes with the edge of one could quite easily break a 74 year old man’s hip. Oh that’s right, one did…
- Gloves with built in knuckle dusters (some of the black gloves)
- Pepper spray (Note that they are only allowed to use pepper spray to “defend themselves or others if they fear physical injury to themselves or others”, or in similar high-risk circumstances.)
- Some people think tear gas was also used, though police have denied that. Interestingly, I don’t think they have denied any of the other weapons
- Foam bullets
- There is a possibility that some LRAD weapons were used, but I don’t think has been confirmed
- Some say water cannons were used, but it seems that they were fire hoses that were used as weapons by the police, and then possibly against the police.
HOW MANY WERE INJURED?
Apparently, about 8 police officers were injured.
What about protestors? Um, pass. Not reported in the media anywhere, was it? Ok, we’ll have to go with the anecdotal evidence then.
- 74 year old man battered with a shield till his hip broke, necessitating a hip replacement
- An even older man who went to defend a woman on the ground being pummeled by two cops, punch to the face, down he went, out like a light. I later saw a photo of him back on his feet, but a bloody gash down his face. I don’t imagine the woman was in great shape either.
- As far as I know, there has been no confirmation of the rumours previously reported – a young woman being pulled out of a tree and landing on her head, dead child, tent of pepper sprayed children. But it does seem likely that the later updates were true – that a young woman was hit in the head with a foam bullet and knocked unconscious, and a child was hospitalised overnight after being pepper sprayed.
- Young medic from down south was clearing out the laundry tent, and was shot twice in the back with foam bullets. I’ve seen a photo that he sent to a friend.
- I’ve also seen a photo of a much worse case of foam bullets being used. But that may have been from Australia, so we won’t count that one for now.
- Reports of a woman having had teeth knocked out
- Countless people who were pepper sprayed. There is video footage everywhere, so that can’t be denied.
Given the array of weapons in police possession, that is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Are we feeling sick yet?
HOW MANY OVERSEAS FORCES WERE PRESENT?
This question is one I would love to get the answer to. People on the front line have reported some thick accents, possibly German. There have been rumours of Italian military being in Christchurch since before Xmas – were some of them deployed to Wellington? Has anyone been through the footage with a fine tooth comb, checking which of the forces showed their ID, how many didn’t have one, and how many had it (or lack of it) covered?
It was made more confusing by the two different uniforms. The black uniforms – are they riot gear, a specialist unit like the armed offenders squad, or overseas troops?
My guess is that it was all hands on deck: seasoned officers, raw recruits, armed offenders squad, overseas troops.
WHO ORDERED THE DAY’S EVENTS?
I never felt that Police Commissioner Coster thought that was the right way to go. So I had been wondering if someone higher up went over his head. Or there was a whisper that there was to be a bit of a push that day, like on some previous occasions, but it wouldn’t go that far. Did the tactical commander on the day take things into his own hands?
But whatever the truth of it, Coster did take the responsibility afterwards. So I have some things I want to say to him. That might take a while as well.
So if you want a music break, here’s another song from the punk era, this time a NZ band formed during the infamous Springbok tour of New Zealand in 1981. The sound effects and voices are eerily similar to the ones heard recently in Wellington.
OPEN LETTER TO THE POLICE COMMISSIONER
Dear Police Commissioner Coster
I feel compelled to write and ask you some questions. I am writing to you in both your private and professional capacities. I assume from your subsequent media comments that you are the one who has taken responsibility for ordering the actions taken by police that day. If that was not the case, these comments are directed to whoever did.
Do you understand what you caused to happen on Wednesday, 2nd March, 2022? Do you have even the slightest idea of the damage you have caused?
On Thursday 10th February, 2022, I publicly stood up for the police. It was just a few who were brutal, I said. Most of them did not want to turn on the men and women they swore to protect.
Each time you sent your forces in to frighten, demoralise and undermine the men and women you work for, it was understood you were under pressure from above and had to play the game. But I still had faith that you personally, and the police force collectively, would uphold your constable’s oaths.
Three weeks later, on Thursday, 3rd March, the day after scenes of unprecedented brutality, I stood in front of some of your officers and begged them to tell me it was overseas forces who committed those crimes. I told them it would break my heart to learn it was my fellow kiwis, betraying their oath and their honour. They were silent.
My heart is broken and I only observed what was done. How much worse was it for the people who were attacked?
The people in the camp came to Wellington because they have lost their jobs, their homes, or their families. They have lost their health, or a loved one, or seen a loved one lose their health. They have been ostracised by their communities, barred from their sport or other hobbies. What else did they have to lose? So they came here to talk their government, and while they waited, they built something beautiful.
A community of love, respect and caring, where everybody was looked after. A community that took in the homeless and uncared for of Wellington and protected them too.
Did you visit the camp, Commissioner? Did you talk to the people? Did you see the crosses representing those killed by the vaccine? The photos of those permanently injured? Did you feel the atmosphere of love and acceptance?
I suspect not, or you would have done your job of protecting the community, instead of … Instead of what? What DID you do? Obey orders? Whatever it was you did, it wasn’t the job you are employed by the men and women of New Zealand to do.
Do you understand that what you ordered your forces to do was take everything they had left, from people who had already lost so much? Do you comprehend the trauma, loss and horror you inflicted on fellow kiwis?
Do you understand the damage you have done to the reputation of the police force, both internally and internationally? The possibly irreparable damage to your relationship with your local communities?
Do you realise the damage you have done to your own people, by ordering them to betray the constable’s oath some of them took only days or weeks before?
Do you understand that you now have a completely compromised work force? Those who enjoyed being violent, who are proud of what was done, who laughed about hurting people, are psychopaths and should not be on the street, let alone in positions of power. The rest are likely as traumatised as the people they betrayed, and will have their actions on their conscience for a long time to come.
Why am I writing this to you, rather than the people whose orders you were carrying out? Because I believe they are completely corrupt and without conscience. At this point, I still believe you to be a man who knows right from wrong, and knows that you acted outside of the law. Though since I heard your men had evicted traumatised and lost people from the freedom camping area in Wainuiomata, that belief has been strained to its limit.
What do I want from you? Oddly, I don’t want your resignation, though I suspect many do. If you are prepared to stand up now, on the side of truth, that will go some way towards redeeming your reputation.
Do you recall these words? – Policing is by consent, to have the trust and confidence of all.
As your employer, a tax payer who is paying your wages, I now instruct you to do one simple thing – publicly tell the truth.
- The truth that the police were not abused by protestors on a daily basis.
- The truth that you knew there were agitators present who did not represent the group.
- The truth that the camp was safe and clean, and the stories about filth, sewage going into the storm water drains, unsafe children, sexual abuse and more were just that – stories.
- The truth that the unknown substance thrown in the faces of police was pepper spray from a colleague.
- The truth that police came armed with pepper spray, batons, shields to use for battery, guns to shoot foam bullets and more, when they knew that the protestors were peaceful and unarmed.
- The truth that police incited violence that day and on several other occasions.
- At present, we don’t know who the violent thugs were who started fires and hurled projectiles into the crowd. But I think you do, and would like you to speak to that to.
If you are unable to do as I instruct, I request a face to face meeting with you, so you can look me in the eye and see if you can still justify your actions.
WAS I UNBIASED?
No, my bias is clear. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is never easy to see. Probably not possible to see. But did my questions balance the reporting a bit? I hope so.
I deplore what happened, and believe there are dark forces at work. But I don’t hate the police. Maybe I’m naive, but I also believe that despite everything, there are still good police out there (Coster included, maybe), and we need them.
Love and blessings to you all.
My previous posts:
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 1
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 2 & 3
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 4
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 5
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 6
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 7
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 8
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 9 & 10
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 11 to 13
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 13 to 15
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 16 to 17
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Day 18
Peace in the Ukraine & at home
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 19 to 20
Freedom Village, Wellington, NZ – Days 21 to 23
If you’re not on this blogging platform, and I’ve been sending you links, I might not remember everybody every time. So here’s where you can go to find all my posts. There are several different front ends, which will look a bit different but have the same content.