I’m sure this is going to get a bit of play – the New Zealand Police are monitoring protest action and protestors so closely, they even know who they might be shagging. State secrets indeed. I’d be happy to provide anyone interested with my list – you don’t need the Special Investigation Group here, boys in blue.
But seriously, while this may not be a surprise to many social justice activists, police monitoring of groups which ask questions about morality, ethical behaviour and equality should scare us. Properly scare us. Because we need the kinds of questions protest groups ask. Do we need weapons? Why do we test chemicals on animals? What kinds of weapons are ethical in warfare? Is it ok to kill whales? Is strip-mining of minerals a long-term sustainable way to treat our earth? Are genetically modified plants and animals safe, or messing with our food and environment in ways we don’t understand yet?
Protest pushes the boundaries of what can be debated. It literally changes the world. And the world is a much fairer place for that.
I don’t think I need to list the kinds of social justice issues that we take for granted now because of protest action in the past. Anyone who is prepared to excuse this police spying as a measure against terrorism or serious social unrest needs to think about how police informant Rob Gilchrist described the people he spied on for ten years:
Does Gilchrist think the people in the protest groups were security threats? “No, of course not. I know they are good people trying to make a better world,” he told the Star-Times. He said he had felt “conflicted” for years. “I didn’t feel what I was doing was moral or right.”
It would be good to see the new government drawing a line under this police action, which mostly happened under the Labour-led governments of the last three terms. My suggestion would be that the Special Investigation Group have their monitoring monitored by independent review – and the findings made public. We could then make an informed decision about how useful this group is, and in what capacity it should continue to exist.
The links to those arrested in the Urewera raids last year – including the attention police paid to activists who were not arrested – should also not be escaping anyone.
Te Whare Oranga Wairua, the Maori Women’s Refuge in Taupo, was raided on suspicion of having drugs in October 2007. Six police officers, with dogs, entered the safehouse, breaking a window while they did so. No drugs were found. Fortunately, no women and children escaping violence were there when the house was broken into – but several of the Maori women who work there, as well as keeping Tuwharetoa families safe in Taupo, also have passionate tino rangatiratanga beliefs.
A couple of them had driven home with lawyer for some of the Ruatoki accused Annette Sykes, after a rally in support of Tame Iti, immediately before Te Whare Oranga Wairua was raided.
Coincidence? Or excessive police monitoring of political beliefs deemed outside the norm? Whose norm? This is not good enough Aotearoa – and we should all say so loud and clear.