Students Protest Targets Police
by Cathy Aronson
Auckland students protested outside the central police station yesterday claiming police brutality when 18 students were arrested the day before during a protest about student loan delays.
The students claim the police gouged eyes, stuck fingers up noses, strangled throats, twisted arms and punched students in the back to remove them from the footpath outside the central police station which they had occupied for close to an hour.
Three arrests were made during Thursday’s march through Queen St about Work Income New Zealand (WINZ) student loan delays. Fifteen more arrests were made once more than 100 students went to the central police station to demand the release of their friends.
On Friday students were back at the central police station protesting about police brutality and chanting, “drop the charges”.
Student action group Fightback spokesperson Megan Hall said students were shocked by the violence of police in trying to stop what they claim was a peaceful protest.
Ms Hall said the police used unnecessary force and made unjustified arrests, in particular focusing on younger students. She said a young woman who was arrested had been punched and shoved by police earlier on the march.
Auckland City police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said police moved students from the middle of Queen St because they were stopping traffic flow.
“The police behaved in a professional manner, endeavoring to let all citizens go about their business.”
Fightback said The Bill of Rights Act has specific provisions allowing freedom of assembly, association, speech and movement, and the police consistently ignored those throughout the day, utilising violence and threats to put people off standing up for their rights.
“Anyone should be able to protest freely in New Zealand, without fear of brutality or intimidation by the police. At the end of the day, the police are letting WINZ and the Government off the hook and perpetuating the injustices of the current tertiary education system.
"We have been constantly putting pressure on the Government and WINZ to sort out the mess they have made of the Student Loan Scheme and Student Allowances. One of our methods has been to organise mass rallies of students, and this was the second we had organised in a fortnight," said Ms Hall.
Before heading to the police station yesterday the students occupied the Queen St WINZ office foyer and refused to leave until a WINZ representative addressed the crowd and received their demands. After about 30 minutes WINZ regional operational manager Peter Anderson emerged before the group of angry students.
The students handed Mr Anderson a list of demands asking for WINZ head Christine Rankin to front student meetings or resign, for WINZ to take on more staff and fix the loans shambles and abolish the loan scheme by moving to free education.
Mr Anderson refused to comment to Scoop but said he would pass the list on to Christine Rankin.