Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An introduction

I'm cross posting an update I wrote for Alas, a blog I write for with a largely American audience. I thought I'd post it here for people who read this blog from elsewhere

On October 15 the police raided over 60 houses throughout New Zealand. They arrested 16 people on jointly possessing a number of firearms, and one person on drugs charges. From the very first day the police were talking about charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The raids were brutal, a 12 year old girl had a gun pointed at her head, and when her grandmother tried to comfort her (you can view the 12 year old's comments here. In Ruatoki, a they put a roadblock on the line where the land had been confiscated so many years ago, and anyone who went in and out had to have their photo taken by their car. When one house was raided, the children were locked in a shed for hours by the police while the search was being carried.

Four people were arrested in Wellington; three of those were friends of mine - people I loved. They didn't get bail; they went into the prison industrial complex. Suddenly prisons stopped being an abstract concept to me, and became a reality that I attempted to navigate while trying to visit the prisoners and get them books and money.

But we didn't, couldn't, just do prisoner support, we also needed to stand in solidarity of people who had been attacked, particularly TÅ«hoe, the iwi that had been targeted in these raids. The four weeks that followed was prisons and driving and meetings and court and protests and meetings and supporting each other and meetings and prisons and court and driving and hugs and tears and and anger and love.

At 4pm, Thursday 8 November almost four weeks after people had been arrested, the Solicitor General announced that no-one would be charged under the terrorism suppression act (these were the first charges ever attempted by the police under the Terrorism Suppression Act). The following day all my friends got bail, and all 16 defendents are now free

I don't think I could describe the sustained joy that started at 4.01 and continued for a week. They were released eleven days ago and I'm smiling right now, because they're out and I can see them whenever I want.

It's joy and a respite, but we've got so much work to do. All 16 are still facing charges under the Arms Act. The Terrorism Suppression Act - which allowed extensive bugging, has just been strengthened. While our friends are out of prisons, those vile instituations still stand, with far too many trapped inside. I still live in a colonised country, where demands for Tino Rangatiratanga and Mana Motuhake are ignored.

I couldn't write much. I was in too much of a whirlwind to know what to say. I'm looking forward to writing more regularly, but what's happened over the last 6 weeks has affected me, and will affect what I write.

I've been promising to write more about feminism in prisons for a while now. While my analysis hasn't changed much, your understanding changes as issues stop being abstract and distanced and become part of your reality, and the reality of those you love. So I imagine those posts will take a slightly different form than they might have two months ago, but will probably be stronger because of it. Most importantly, in the next few days (or weeks) I hope to write an introductory post that'll cover some of the very basic history of colonialism in NZ, and Maori resistance, that I can use a reference point if I want to write more on Alas. I've generally avoided cross-posting what little I do write on Alas, but I think writing about colonialism where I live has resonances beyond, so that I should do the background work to make what I write intelligible.

I can answer questions if people have any, it can be hard to write about what's going on here for another audience, but I think it's worth doing.


  1. Here's my comment on Alas

    People in these groups had been under surveillance for up to two years. They were training in a bush camp with military style guns and home made bombs. They we taped saying they intend to kill one of the future prime ministers of New Zealand.

    Their stated aim and that of the Maori sovereignty movement is to bring about the formation of a Maori (indigenous) state.

    New Zealand is a small country and we are quite susceptible to extremists and vocal minorities forcing their views on other people and is one of the reasons our standard of living is slipping badly and we are sliding down the OECD ladder.

    The New Zealand government counters extremism by bending over backwards to accomodate diverse views - from having land tribunals to give back indigenous land, very liberal laws on abortion and prostitution, restrictive laws on smacking children and free speech with the ability to prosecute people making so called racist statement, comprehensive equal opportunities/affirmative action programs, postitive discrimination and targeted assistance to indigenous and others people that are percieved as deprived, very generous welfare support, ... The list goes on and on.

    Despite this we have an enormous problem with violent crime, often against women, children and tourists and a small number of extremists still exist who are definitely supported only by a tiny minority of the country. New Zealand's massive violent crime problem and gang problem may have partially lead to the events described above.

    We depend heavily on the tourist trade for wealth generation which pays these people's wages and benefits and access to our clean green environment is part of our national psyche. Recently these people have been blocking roads and scaring people out of public conservation parks and bush areas.

    It is a balancing act between too much force and not enough. We certainly dont want to go through what Northern Ireland went through for no gain. All suggestions listened to by our media and the government and we spend a large amount on consulting the public in NZ. What to do in a democratic society? That is the question.

  2. Anonymous1:53 pm

    what, you're not suggesting we actually live in a democratic society are you kevin? mind boggling what some people believe.

  3. with military style guns and home made bombs
    Allegedly. So far, all we know is just four rifles (non-military were confiscated.

    They we taped saying they intend to kill one of the future prime ministers of New Zealand.
    No, one of them was tapped saying "somebody should", and we don't know what the response to that was - though it's a safe bet that it wasn't "yeah, cool, why don't I do it?" or that would have been quoted too. Not really surprising that the cops didn't try to lay conspiracy to murder charges.

    bending over backwards to accomodate diverse views - from having land tribunals to give back indigenous land,
    Giving them back their own land? Oooh yes, that's real radical stuff.

    very liberal laws on abortion and prostitution...
    Ie, the exact opposite of Saudi Arabia, which is where most international terrorists originate. Looks like we're got the right idea.