It’s been a long, hard haul since October 15th, 2007.
State terrorists kidnapped my friends that day, and terrorised hundreds of ordinary residents going about their daily activities in the Bay of Plenty – not that we knew that initially here in Wellington.
The parents at Te Aro school were greeted by big black SUV’s parked up in the playground, here.
They were told they weren’t to speak of this to anyone, as their already cramped school had classrooms removed from teaching and pressed into service as the HQ for the special squad of Police in AOS and riot squad uniforms.
One of those parents spoke to me almost immediately about it – a former journalist, she was appalled that the Police so casually intimidated the entire parent body of their small, liberal community into silence.
So when the reports began to come through about the way in which the town of Ruatoki was shut down, and how travellers, school children and residents in the Bay of Plenty towns nearby were stopped and searched, I knew right away that our mostly white, mostly middle-class and mostly university-educated community had been treated completely differently.
When I finally had the opportunity to talk with my friends who were arrested, they confirmed that they were treated respectfully; no guns were held to their heads, no children were separated from their parents to sit in an old shed for hours with no water, food, fresh nappies for the babies, no access to them for their parents, aunts, uncles, granma’s … these are the facts I have carried in my head, to my shame, to the shame of all pakeha in this country, Aotearoa/New Zealand.
This shame has made me angry.
That anger at times was powerful, an energy that helped me carry on, attending meetings, participating in fundraisers to help cover legal fees and costs of travel and accommodation for the arrestees and their families.
When the anger ran out and I got tired, I wept with those others whose whanau were hurting; in marae and homes around the country, on various occasions, I listened as aunties, granmas and uncles spoke about the way their family members were coping or not coping, how the children were reacting to the memory of the raids, their fear of the Police returning again.
So now I issue this challenge: now that the Police case, Operation 8, has been found to be inadmissable, I want Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White removed from his post, and returned to the country he came from.
No more racist policing from him or his minions, thank-you very much.
The Anti-terror Unit has failed badly in it’s prosecution of Ahmed Zauoi, and it has failed again badly in this Operation 8. Flawed assumptions, failed communication; using a template for policing developed in another country, to address concerns not of our making, is a huge failure.
So ‘man up’, New Zealand Police. I call upon the Police Commissioner to take responsibility for the failures made by the ATU, by it’s commanding officer and by each member of that exclusive, elite team. This is not the future we want or need in New Zealand. And those guys have cost our country too much already, get rid of them before yet another piece of flawed reasoning creates another costly debacle.
Then there’s the issue of compensation for loss of employment, loss of enjoyment, and in the case of Tuhoe Lambert, loss of life. There’s the cost of incarceration, the legal fees, the vast and incomprehensible waste of time and money that has been Operation 8. That has already been commented on by Te Ururoa Flavell, here, and at the Hand Mirror by Maia, here.
Tonite, I’m celebrating the demise of this case. This afternoon, knowing the charges had been dropped, but not being able to articulate my feelings, I came home and cooked up a storm in the kitchen in my flat. Just as Sam Buchanan calmly put together a huge tray of apple pie in the kitchen at 128 on the afternoon of the raids, so I threw my energy into making a gluten-free apple pie, and a cassarole for dinner.
It was only as I dished up the meal that I remembered Sam’s epic foresight in preparing some comforting sustenance for those who would arrive at 128 during that day.
So yes, we’ve had our hakari here; but tonite has been a bitter celebration as I think of all that has happened in the intervening almost four years since the raids, all the pain and anger and fear and frustration expressed in our affinity circles.
Ka whaiwhai tonu maatou, ake ake ake. Arohatinonui a koutou katoa, nga anarkia me ngai Tuuhoe.
A quick update:
There has been a lot of media on this, and I missed a few pieces last night.
Honourable mention to the Otago Daily Times, one of our last fully-NZ-owned daily print newspapers, for this piece quoting Green MP Keith Locke, and Morning Report on Radio NZ National today came along with this, after broadcasting this earlier. TV3’s early news spoke with John Minto this morning as well, video link here. Another news article from TV3 here, posted Tuesday, profiling union activist Omar Hamed, arrested in Auckland.