Inside APEC Series
by Selwyn Manning
Former Halt All Racist Tours [HART] spokesperson, John Minto, has advised APEC protesters to be wary of a police call of co-operation.
Police have been in “direct contact” with leaders of groups planning opposition to the APEC leader’s summit conference to be held in Auckland next week.
The police’s PR team issued a statement from APEC Operation Commander, Detective Superintendent Peter Marshall, saying: "We initiated these meetings so we could gauge how many protesters to expect, where to expect them and to help facilitate wherever possible.”
“It's their right to protest and we are more than happy for them to do it. In fact we are doing everything we can to help, including sending out a letter to the groups outlining what their legal rights are and helping them find suitable places to stage their protest. Hopefully this way we can avoid arrests,” Detective Marshall says.
But Mr Minto has told Scoop: “Assurances from the police before any event are not worth the paper they are written on. They will be ditched as soon as it suits their purpose. In my view there is little point engaging in any discussions with them.”
In the leadup to events such as APEC, Mr Minto says, the police always begin with a Public Relations approach to try and gain “the moral ground” with the public: “It makes it easier to defend any thuggery which follows.”
If violence erupts against protesters, Mr Minto says police would then issue press releases stating something like: "Protesters refused to cooperate from the outset - hell-bent on confrontation from the start".
The Police’s PR people then take on a new propaganda role: “There will be several police assigned full time to this as well as probably a PR firm in toe - liaising with journalists - preparing media releases for all eventualities - damage control in the case of assaults etc etc.
“On the street the ‘operational commanders’ take over and all bets are off.”
John Minto was described by North and South magazine in July 1991 as “the quintessential protester”. And Loose magazine titled him in its launch issue this month as “one time the most hated person in New Zealand - second perhaps to Muldoon on this one!” He is of course still recognised as the “face” of the anti-apartheid movement in New Zealand, and he wears the scars of the 1981 protests. Lately, John Minto is the national spokesperson for QPEC, the Quality Public Education Coalition.
The police, he says, are always keen for protest groups to “lay out their cards” prior to taking their message to the people. But the police always “will refuse to lay out their own”.
Police say protesters can expect to be photographed and videoed; “a common practice for police and will be done openly during APEC” says Detective Marshall.
"The staff involved are dressed in police overalls and clearly visible as police," he says. "It is done for numerous reasons including assisting in the investigation of any complaints about police actions as well as the identification and prosecution of offenders."
For protesters, the police plan means being allocated a time and a place, well away from the eyes of heads of governments.
To play by the police’s set rules equals ineffectiveness: “They will be very happy to support any protest where they set the venue and the ground rules. Inevitably however such protests prove utterly ineffective.”
And as protesters apply pressure to get their message across, the police quickly harden their attitude: “They rapidly revert to type. Any previous assurances go out the window - their previous words are meaningless.”
“In my view there is little point engaging in any discussions with them. They will have been monitoring phone calls for many months in any case, along with the SIS which will have passed all its APEC intelligence onto the CIA who themselves will have been more active than usual here for the past few months in the leadup to APEC.
“Its important to say also that if people don't
actively exercise their democratic right to protest then
they will lose those rights or have them severely curtailed
by police practices of ‘managing’ protest,” John Minto