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Democracy under Attack in Auckland

Democracy under Attack in Auckland

Auckland Council violated the bill of rights in a bid to side-step the due process of the courts on Monday the 23rd of January, when they hired contractors to illegally confiscate the possessions of protestors occupying areas of central Auckland, advises legal council for Occupy Auckland. At 7 am on 26 January security guards escorted by 100 members of the NZ police force decended upon the Occupation once more in a display of police brutality that saw several protestors illegally detained and arrested. In this most recent raid on the occupation, 13 protestors were detained for breaches of the peace and released without charges, along with two members of the public. Approximately seven more protestors are awaiting charges.

Protestors were awaiting a court ruling regarding whether council by-laws prohibiting freedom camping in public spaces can be used to cancel out the bill of rights and on Wednesday 25 January were served with a notice that Auckland Council is taking Occupy Auckland back to court on Thursday 2nd of February, this time with an application to have the protestors arrested and committed to prison if they do not remove themselves from the specified public places. The outcome of the case will set important legal precedents for civil rights in New Zealand for years to come. Thursday morning’s police crack-down on Aotea square represents the second time in three days, that Auckland Council and the police force have acted to force a breach of the peace and by-pass the court process.

The Occupy Auckland movement rose in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests, as a call to leaders to constrain the exploitative effects of free-trade capitalism and corporate self-interest. The Bill of Rights guarantees all New Zealand citizens the right to peaceful assembly and the right to protest. Auckland Council and Occupy Auckland protestors still await a decision from the court regarding Occupy Auckland’s appeal of the initial court decision in late 2011 that the protestors must decamp. Penny Bright, the only named respondent on Auckland Council’s court proceedings, stated at a general assembly on Wednesday 25 January “I am prepared to take it to the wire” and another protestor commented that “the right to protest is something I am willing to get arrested for.”

It seems these were not empty promises. Footage posted on Youtube and the Occupy Auckland website clearly shows that the police and agents appointed by the Council violated due process on Monday 23 January and again on Thursday 26 January. Protestors, including Penny Bright, can be seen being brutally dragged out of the occupation, hand-cuffed and detained without being read their rights or told why they are being restrained.

“They weren’t gentle,” said one protestor who was man-handled during the first attempt to evict protestors from the square: “There was no warning, it was vague…they were very aggressive.”

Protestors are being required to sign agreements restricting their future democratic rights as citizens before their property will be released to them. A working group was established on Wednesday to liaise with the council for the collective return of all items to the occupations. Failing this, proposals were to be brought forward to start court proceedings against Auckland Council for their illegal removal of property.

The Occupy Movement has been criticised for lacking one clear message. One Occupier’s response to that is “We have so many messages: that is a difficulty but it is also a sign… We have the right to gather and bring our messages together so we can communicate them with enough power to reach the people who need to hear us. This is what democracy looks like.” A member of the media team responds, “All revolutions do have one demand, to overthrow the corrupt.”

A placard among the crowd reads “All we want is a human-hearted government.” For the time-being, Occupy Auckland will have to first focus their efforts on preserving their democratic right to protest.

They [Auckland Council] are proving our point for us,” says another Occupier, “our leaders are clearly not willing to listen to the people.” In one of their Youtube clips, [http://youtu.be/rarpSu2Iw-c] Occupy Auckland claims that the ‘the 1% have created a system where human rights are trampled by [undemocratically created] council by-laws.’


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