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Students concerned at coverage of police at Budget protest

Students concerned at coverage of police action during Budget Blockade protest

5th June 2012

Students involved with Friday's Blockade the Budget protest have expressed concern at the media coverage of the event. Many students have noted a general lack of coverage on why students were protesting, and unevenness around the reporting of police conduct.

Students have condemned the action of police and the use of controversial riot control measures against a peaceful march. Only 5 mins into the march, Police began dragging students from the crowd with choke holds. Many students have expressed their confusion and anger at the extreme reaction from the Police. Post-graduate Sociology student Jarred Marks had this to say: "They told us they were there to facilitate the march, but five minutes later they kettled the crowd and started picking us off. The first arrested were made with choke holds. People were crying, young women were howling in pain, it was really awful. At one stage we saw a nine year old boy get shoved into the road by an officer. One of the officers dived into the crowd to punch a young woman. Even one of the police officers was crying; some of them knew they were doing something terrible. A lot of young students are feeling pretty traumatised. We were protesting for the future of education in our country, but we learned a lot about our government's desire to criminalise and silence dissent."

Organisers also expressed their gratitude for the presence of a small number of people from community groups and social justice activists at the demonstration, and have been dismayed at the portrayal of these groups as central to the planning of the event. Student activist Rosa Jennings said "this was a peaceful protest in which students were subjected to excessive and unlawful violence, the overwhelming majority of people arrested were students, and most of them were simply arrested to stop them from publicly addressing the issues. Community activists turn up to these events to support the cause, because they understand how education is connected to every other social problem. We are always really grateful to them."

Post-graduate student Jai Bentley-Payne said "Some media outlets seem to struggle with the idea that students could initiate something this big themselves, but that is exactly what happened. Students are engaging in new forms of democratic organisation that they are learning from other movements around the world. If anything it is the students everywhere providing the catalyst for struggles at large, not the other way around."

Members of the student activist network We are The University expressed similar sentiments. Henri Carlos, writer for Auckland University student magazine Craccum says "We have been doing this for some time now; we were using our own version of consensus before the Occupy movement even reached New Zealand. It is a shame that the mainstream media would rather make up stories about scary socialists than explore a truly fascinating development in contemporary politics."

The overarching concern from students has been the perception of an inaccurate portrayal of the protests and the lack of coverage of the issues. AUT Undergraduate student Cecilia Parks said "These protests are against a budget that has no plan for education other than to cut funding and make it harder to access unless you are wealthy. The police attempted to violently shut that conversation down on Friday, and as long as others are ignoring the issues then they are doing the same thing. But this won't go away because of some dodgy police operation."

Students are meeting again today to plan further action against the budget, and a response to the events on Friday.


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