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Kedgley slates heavy-handed police action

10 December 2004

Kedgley slates heavy-handed police action at Bypass protest

Green MP Sue Kedgley has lambasted the Police for their heavy-handed, confrontational response to this afternoon's protest against the Wellington Inner City Bypass, which resulted in the arrest of two journalists.

"This was a peaceful protest until the Police decided to turn it into a confrontation," Ms Kedgley, the Greens' Wellington Transport Spokesperson said. "The police response was unnecessary and heavy-handed."

Police prevented protestors from entering Tonks Avenue, a street that is usually open to the public, and is far from the current construction work on the Bypass.

"Many Wellingtonians feel a great emotional connection to Tonks Avenue. It is an important heritage street in Wellington and a quiet place that is a pleasure to spend time in, yet the Police are using force to prevent people from doing so for no good reason.

"Tonks Avenue is nowhere near the current construction work on the Bypass route, and the protestors posed no threat to any construction workers. It seems that the Police simply decided to quell the protestors forcibly in an effort to intimidate and silence them."

Ms Kedgley said the confrontation between Police and protestors was an inauspicious start to what is scheduled to be two years of construction work on the Bypass.

"Today's events make clear that Wellingtonians are going to continue to protest against the Bypass, a folly that Transit has ideologically pursued for years, every step of the way. It is important that the Police stay neutral in any protest, and do not impinge on peaceful protests against Transit's ill-advised pet project.

"It is concerning that the Police don't seem to understand that their duty is simply to uphold the law and protect New Zealanders' right to freedom of association. The Police should not be doing Transit's bidding in trying to suppress protests of those who disagree with this ridiculous Bypass."

Ms Kedgley said she was also concerned about the arrest of a TV3 cameraman and another journalist.

"These arrests have worrying undertones, and are an affront to the freedom of the press. Why is it that the only people arrested were members of the media? Are the police trying to send journalists the message that they should not to be covering Bypass protests?"

ENDS

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