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Ganging up on Patches

Ae Marika!

Hone Harawira

MP for Te Tai Tokerau

Leader of the MANA Movement

21 August 2012

Ganging up on Patches

Last week Todd McClay put forward legislation to ban gang patches from government premises, including schools, hospitals and swimming pools. He followed that up with a statement in the house that if gang members go to government premises with a patch, “Your government will not serve you. Instead, a policeman will and he will want to talk to you about the things you and your criminal mates have been up to”.

Now I’m not a great fan of gangs, but I really don’t like it when government uses the media to create an image of gangs that causes people to be afraid, and then plays on that fear to ram through bills like this that deny gang members the civil rights that all New Zealand citizens enjoy.

Apart from being a deeply racist piece of legislation (the majority of those targeted will be Maori), this bill has also been woefully underprepared, and I pose these questions to show how shallow and poor the planning for this bill has been.

1. Given their high workload and reduced numbers, does Mr McClay seriously think the police want to be bothered with calls from civil servants who aren’t sure whether a person is wearing a genuine gang patch or an elaborate sports club insignia?

2. Is Mr McClay going to run classes for every civil servant to ensure that they can correctly identify the detail of every gang patch in the country?

3. Does Mr McClay realise that it is mainly women (59% of government workers are women) who will be expected to back up his macho threats, and is it true that his bill contemplates no security for any of those women?

4. Is it true that Mr McClay has not even spoken to the PSA who represent the front-line staff that have not even been briefed about the likely impact the bill will have on them?

5. Is Mr McClay thinking of turning a kaumatua and his mokopuna away from the local swimming pool just because the old fella is carrying a 20 year old faded gang tattoo, even though the man has been coming to the pool with his grandchildren for the past ten years?

6. Is Mr McClay planning on turning away all those gang members who have gone back to school to educate themselves so that they can get a job?

7. Does Mr McClay expect a doctor to refuse to treat an accident victim because he’s wearing a patch?

8. What will Mr McClay do to the civil servants who choose to ignore this law so that they can continue to build good relationships with gang members in their community?

9. And if gangs today, then who tomorrow? Unions? Muslims? Ngapuhi? Where will this end?

This bill is deliberately targeted at those on the fringe of our society, it will impact on Maori more than anyone else, and it will not reduce crime one iota. It is also short-sighted, it is mean-spirited, and it panders to a darker side of our nature where, under the guise of freedom and democracy we are being encouraged to deny those very rights to others.

But sadly it will pass, because parliament is made up of people more comfortable with nodding than fighting injustice. Gangs may not be worth fighting for … but justice certainly is.


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