Friday, 11 February 2022

Policing Protests: Then, And Now.

Then: Forty years ago the Police resorted to more direct methods of bringing protests, if not to an end, then to a sudden halt. I had friends who were bloodied by Police truncheons on Molesworth Street, right outside Parliament grounds, on the night of 29 July 1981. 

THE ONE AND ONLY TIME I’ve been arrested was for the offence of obstructing a carriageway. The arrest took place at the intersection of Rattray Street and Princes Street in Dunedin during the 1981 Springbok Tour. In attempting to assist a fellow protester, whose arm was pinned against a metal post, and who was obviously in considerable pain, I somehow ended up sprawled on the street. Deemed to be obstructing this important carriageway, I was bundled into the back of a windowless van and deposited in the holding cells of the Dunedin Police Station, where I spent the next few hours singing every protest song I knew. Small wonder that my involuntary constabulary audience tossed me back onto the streets!

I was thinking about that incident earlier this week as hundreds of motor vehicles made their way to Parliament grounds to protest the Labour Government’s handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It prompted me to wonder if that quaint old charge (of which, many months later, I was acquitted) is still on the statute books.

Well, it is. Under the Summary Offences Act 1981:

Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000 who, without reasonable excuse, obstructs any public way and, having been warned by a constable to desist,—

(a) continues with that obstruction; or

(b) does desist from that obstruction but subsequently obstructs that public way again, or some other public way in the same vicinity, in circumstances in which it is reasonable to deem the warning to have applied to the new obstruction as well as the original one.


That the anti-vaxxer convoy did not set out on their protest without apprehending that, at some point, their actions were bound to impede the normal, lawful, passage of other users of the public ways, strikes me as highly implausible.

Certainly, the protesters who blocked motorways, ran onto airport runways, attempted to blockade rugby fixtures, and even interrupted the television broadcast of the final test match between the All Blacks and the Springboks, were all-too-aware that their actions were unlawful. They fully expected to be, and usually were, confronted, apprehended and charged by the Police.

The protest organisers understood the political impact of otherwise law-abiding citizens courting arrest and risking conviction in the name of combatting the racist system of Apartheid. They were also aware of the sheer practical difficulty of the Police, the Courts, and Corrections processing and accommodating hundreds (or even thousands) of arrestees in secure facilities.

It was to overcome these difficulties that the police relied upon the minor offence of “Breach of the Peace” to arrest, briefly detain, and then release (without the need for formal charges) so many of the more “disruptive” anti-tour protesters.

On occasion, however, the Police resorted to more direct methods of bringing protests, if not to an end, then to a sudden halt. I had friends who were bloodied by Police truncheons on Molesworth Street, right outside Parliament grounds, on the night of 29 July 1981. I was there in Wilson’s Road, outside the First Test at Lancaster Park, when the “Blue” riot squad smashed into the front row of protesters with their notorious PR-24 long batons.

In one sense, it is mighty puzzling to witness a protest movement publicly announce its intention to engage in actions which appear to be – at least to the ordinary person in the street – a flagrant breach of the law, without incurring the stern intervention of both the Government and the Police that characterised the 1981 Springbok Tour protests.

In another sense, however, the behaviour of the authorities is perfectly understandable. The prospect of having to effect mass arrests of anti-vaxxers is, very clearly, one which the Police Commissioner and his fellow senior officers are loath to contemplate. His forces are overstretched as it is. Certainly, they have a great deal more to contend with than the cops responsible for policing the more innocent New Zealand of forty years ago.

Halting the anti-vaxxers in their tracks would require a level of force unseen in this country for decades. Some of the anti-vaxxer crowd would need more than a PR-24 to subdue them. The wholesale use of tasers, tear-gas and pepper-spray would be required. Even, ultimately, the use of deadly force.

In 1981, students like me went quietly. Will the anti-vaxxers do likewise in 2022?


This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 February 2022.

27 comments:

TimS said...

More anti-mandates than anti-vax, I believe!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Will they go quietly? Probably not. There's been enough aggression against members of the public wearing masks for instance, to make me think that there will be resistance. And of course there has been. I guarantee there is another way they won't go quietly, and that is that there will be continual whining about being arrested and charged. When whatshisface drove his tractor up the steps of Parliament and broke the law there was no end to it. I've always said, demonstrations have to inconvenience people or they don't get noticed, you almost HAVE to break the law, and when you are punished for it you take it on the chin.
I remember 50 or so years ago when I was at teachers training college, somebody organised a "field trip" to Auckland central police station where we were given lectures on stuff, by an attractive young policewoman She was talking about this sort of thing and happened to say that the morning after you have been arrested you are put in a lineup so that the police might identify any people with outstanding warrants and the like – "this is completely voluntary". "No it's not!" came from one of our number, a very keen rugby player and supporter who had been walking past and anti-apartheid demonstration completely innocently, been grabbed thrown into the back of a police van and taken to the station. :) "Two bloody great policemen come into your cell and drag you down to the line up." He had received a reasonably expensive lesson then police procedures, and never quite regarded them in the same light ever again.
"I KNEW you'd all be stirrers" came from the policewoman to gales of laughter.

Unknown said...

You are way out of line.
Where on earth do you get the notion these protestors are all anti vaxxers.
If they can be branded with a common cause at all then it would be a protest action that is anti communistic standover tactics that this current Labor government seems hell bent on introducing to NZ.

Trev1 said...

They are not "anti-vaxxers", they are anti-mandates. Why do you persist in misrepresenting these people, most of whom appear to be working class kiwi battlers? Ardern gave an undertaking that she would not introduce mandates and then proceeded to do so, depriving people of their livelihoods and forcing them to face daily discrimination. Today's "liberals" have a distinctly authoritarian complexion which is becoming more sinister by the day.

As for obstructing carriageways, I don't recall this law being enforced against recent BLM or XR demonstrators, but then they are the regime's stormtroopers.

Unknown said...


Parliament grounds yesterday. The tactics of the NZ police were disgusting to observe.
This freedom protest is not to be compared in any shape or form to the thugby fiascos of yesteryear.

This is NZ now. This is how the Leftists of the Universities and the loonies in the Labor Party get their jollies these days. What a grand way to run a country.

Thomas Jefferson said – when tyranny becomes law rebellion becomes duty.

Like Canada at this moment, Kiwis are also taking the initiative.

Kyle Reese said...

"Will the anti-vaxxers do likewise in 2022?"

No.

CXH said...

Interesting that you call them anti-vaxxers. Even the press are prepared to admit a lot of it is about the mandates, rather than anti-vax.

I am double vaxxed, plus boosted, yey agree with the protest. The mandates were used purely as a blunt stick to force vaccinations on unwilling people. It was cowardly behaviour by a craven government. They didn't have the balls to force their wish for full vaccination on the people. Instead they found a vile work around. Much like the MIQ system. They relied on the airlines causing the bottleneck for citizens to return, giving them the ability to pretend they weren't responsible.

We have a government that is determined to do as they wish, but are too scared to face the people they work for. Instead they hire ever more spin doctors and bribe the media with piles of taxpayer money. They hide in their tower telling the rest of us what we must do and think. Stealing our freedoms with no legal justification, then being loathe to ever return them.

Less than 6.4% of the world lives in a democracy, soon there will be 5 million less.

The Barron said...

What we need is a disgruntled rat-catcher with a hypnotic pipe and some one-way ferries to Somes Island.

Barry said...

AlthoughI disagree with the mishmash of claims at the protest I think itsgreat that they are hanging in there.
I do agree that the isolation mandate is now silly but the other demands are out of order.
What I do like seeing is a determined group who are prepared to hang in there. NZ will benefit from a few more determined protests groups. If we dont object our government would extend the current limits on freedom right on into the future by draging in seasonal flu - as the PM included in her speech only a couple of days ago.
My hope is that the current protest hangs in for as long as it takes to get message across that its time for the government to butt out.

Theres a saying that the government - in the form of the police - can only rule with the agreement of society. I think its time there was some pushback.

oneblokesview said...

Oh daer Chris, you reading and believing the MSM again.

They are not anti vaxers, they are protesting the Vax Mandates and other Covid related restrictions.

Do keep up.
It would appear that amongst the many ""ordinary"" Kiwi protestors a majority are vaxed!!

Glenn Webster said...

Chris, Chris, Chris.
Not "anti-vaxxers".
Anti coercion.
Anti-fascists.

Mick said...

The protest is anti-vax mandates - Not anti-vax.
You may have described law relating to carriage ways,
but people are allowed to gather and protest on parliament grounds.

sumsuch said...

Singing protest songs. I realize that was from the middle class movements of the 60s and 70s (that delivered Roge to power). But you do sound like the absurdly antique in his time Cato the Younger.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Anti-mandates? Half of them don't seem to know what they do want. And there's the woman who supposedly is going to leave her husband because he's had a booster shot. That seems pretty much antivax to me. These are the people who put the lunatic in lunatic fringe.
The tactics of the police were disgusting? Jesus wept, in any other country in the world just about they'd have been swept away with water cannon or what have you.
Just goes to show some of the idiocy that goes on given that somebody asked me on this site a little while ago if I was okay with all the batoning, when the police weren't using batons at all, and had been instructed to leave them off. Jesus wept, I sometimes can't believe the sheer gullibility of some of the supporters of this loony crowd.I really wish I'd invested in tinfoil some years ago. I'd be worth a fortune now.

Anonymous said...

So, "Not Anti'Vax, Anti-Mandate" is the new death cult mantra. Well, that's fine. I hope it is an agreement that the Anti-vax view is intellectually and morally unsustainable. You gotta sorta ask if those abusing at children getting vaccinated (no mandate on young children) had missed the memo. Perhaps the woman screaming at the camera that her husband getting vaxed will lead to divorce and death was confused about her motivation. Maybe, those scaring and egging school-girls wearing masks outdoors (which isn't mandated) did not think it was personal choice. I guess those posting Anti-vax information on social media aren't amongst the basket of deplorables in front of Parliament.

What are the mandates about? Mask mandates are to protect people from spreading the airborne virus. A mandate no to cause harm to others would seem one of the longest obligations of the State. Of course, the mask also gives reasonable protection for others from those airborne particles. Your coughing could be somebody else's coffin. I am not going to go through the almost universally accepted medical science on this because if you aren't there by now, I'm not going to convince you.

The next mandate is about work and some indoor settings. Health workers must by definition interact with the vulnerable. Teachers must have contact with large numbers of children, Prison Guards must have the capacity for close contact with prisoners and the Police and other emergency services are required to be in contact with the public, including the vulnerable. Neither the worker or the client base has choice in these matters. Those with up-to-date vaccination are less likely to contract or spread the virus. Hospitalization is less likely, and essential services more likely maintained. Again, the universal medical science needs to be denied, The second point is indoor settings. It would seem that there are those that presuppose their right to public or private spaces despite deliberately maintaining an enhanced capacity to endanger the health of others. This reverses accepted public policy which consolidates the right from harm in public space.

Before anyone decides to claim that the harm from Omicron is limited, Children don't die in high numbers etc. I have previously stated in this blog that with Omicron, Long Covid will bring CFS/ ME which will be the largest disabling event in NZ peacetime history. That aside, risk minimalization is my right, it is not the right of some Anti-vaxxer, sorry Anti-Mandater, to decide my risk as I carry out everyday life.

Just to focus on the mud-fest. It is not a new Woodstock. These are people that have lined up, unmasked, shouting in the face of the Police - who are workers with the right to safety, the protestors take with them the view that their ego and dis-ability to filter science, outweighs the safety of others. They have created a super-spreader event and will eventually scurry back to the corners of NZ. There will be sickness and illness amongst the innocent across the nation. There will be deaths because of the irresponsibility of those some contributors in this blog are cheering on.

Perhaps because these deaths will not direct, but through spread, personal and group responsibility can be subjected to cognitive dissidence. Perhaps if those that die are elderly or health compromised, the protestors and bloggers comfort themselves like Harold Shipman did. It is my view that I do not want those in my life sick or dead because of others ignorance and through their exploitative cheerleaders writing contributions to Bowalley Road.

John Hurley said...


Social Cohesion consultation pack
Kia ora
The Social Cohesion team at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) wants to hear from you about our social cohesion approach, what government can do about it and how everyone can play a part.

The foundations - When we have talked to people, there has been a shared understanding that this framework and its vision should be grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and a te ao Māori/Māori worldview pproach. Te Tiriti is the foundation of this framework as it is Aotearoa
New Zealand’s first social cohesion document. It is what connects this framework to Aotearoa New Zealand.
......
I got that in the mail.

My response is that (clearly) social cohesion is based on the Mk4 Zephyr.

AS Gluckman said "you look at that demonstration outside parliament, there was nothing to tie that lot together." He also said "you see what's happened overseas"
Data driven pol sci academic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuQHrmkgHdQ&t=513s

They have (too) completely controlled (ahem) "discourse".

This work thus suggests that for multiculturalism to succeed identities need to be transformed. And, importantly, as Kymlicka suggests, this transformation applies not only to the minority but also to the majority. Indeed, perhaps the major identity transformation is required from members of the majority as their attributes are, as a rule, the same as the ones that define the national identity. Minorities need to be written into the self-definition of the national identity such as to imbue them with existential legitimacy as citizens in parity with the majority.
....
Such civic definitions serve to place the majority group as a sub-group within the system of intergroup relations, which allows for a new identity to emerge. Legitimacy and status as members of the new community are then less likely to be defined by ethnicity. Such civic based definitions also shape sub-group relations such that ethnically-defined difference becomes less relevant to the community as a whole.
...
In a multiethnic/multicultural society, the shift from an exclusive to an inclusive definition of the national prototype requires the emergence of new and consistent discourses about who ‘we’ are (see Kymlicka, 1995). Discourses that do not appeal to ethnic heritage and traditions but to civic values. It is in this context that the role of political leadership comes into place in changing the discourse and creating a consensual view of the national prototype such that it becomes shared by the members of a polity (see Uberoi & Modood, 2013). Moreover, there needs to be an institutionalisation of the public discourse as in line with terms outlined by Parekh (2006).


The Social Psychology of Social (Dis)harmony: Implications for Political Leaders and Public Policy
Luisa Batalha, Katherine J. Reynolds & Emina Subasic
Australian National University

Russ the muss said...

Deadly force have you lost your senses Chris???? I'm a believer that they need to clear them oit and use batons and pepper, as the house is always wins as they say in Vegas and in this instance must win. Bit deadly, this is extremely puzzling comment from an esteemed and intelligent gentleman such as yourself. I can now see why they think they are so isolated and threatened if that's the though processes of our smart people.

Unknown said...


The Barron said...

'What we need is a disgruntled rat-catcher with a hypnotic pipe and some one-way ferries to Somes Island'

I dunno about that.... just export the hive along with the incumbent Queen Bee over there and the inherent drones will follow thereto

Guerilla Surgeon said...

More gullibility? Apparently police are resigning their jobs in droves because they are being forced to "baton" the peaceful protesters at Parliament. Obviously the lunatics are winning in the marketplace of ideas right? You know sometimes I hang around on Quora occasionally answering a question on subjects completely divorced from politics, and every so often I have two put at the beginning of my answer "Where on earth do you get these ideas from?" (Often completely lunatic and dangerous ideas on what to do with firearms.) But reading the comments about this bizarre situation on YouTube and various news sites you have to wonder if these people have always been crazy, have been driven crazy by lockdowns and the like, the craziness has been legitimised by people like Donald Trump, or maybe all of the above. I have no idea, all I know is that the craziness exists. :)
The French police I understand have been tear gassing similar protests in France, and yet people are still going on about the "disgusting" actions of the NZ police. And yet no one has been batoned, maced, teargassed, or shot.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/body-cam-footage-shows-minneapolis-police-allegedly-hunting/story?id=80434010

https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/09/30/kettling-protesters-bronx/systemic-police-brutality-and-its-costs-united-states

https://abcnews.go.com/US/george-floyd-protest-updates-north-dakota-national-guard/story?id=71084412

https://abcnews.go.com/US/ohio-police-officers-charged-assault-dereliction-duty-george/story?id=78177062

greywarbler said...

The protesters are fluid. Not anti vaxx now but anti- mandate. Nobody should ask a freeman or woman to do anything for both themselves, and other people. Individualism rules okay on this crowded planet! I have the right to go mad in my own space okay; Okay or I will spit in your eye and possibly infect you. It's your decision. Is that plain aggression or passive aggression?

https://time.com/4916056/passive-aggressive-definition-meaning/
Either way, passive-aggression is more than just the nettlesome habit of a few maddeningly indirect people. Clinicians differ on whether it qualifies as a full-blown personality disorder like, say, narcissism or paranoia, but they agree on the symptoms: deliberate inefficiency, an avoidance of responsibility, a refusal to state needs or concerns directly.

Passive-aggressiveness comes in varying degrees, which can make it tricky to know if you work, live or socialize with a passive-aggressor — or if you’re one yourself. The behavior is practically defined by its plausible deniability. So we’ve compiled seven of the most commonly reported ways passive-aggressive character traits can show up in your life:

sumsuch said...

I have no idea why I sign in at my main grocery automatically. And don't keep a contacts diary. But it captures how little most of us think of the pandemic response one way or the other.

Inner demons, the internet and the freemarket dismissal of the lower middle class explains them down at Parliament grounds.

David George said...

Policing has changed over the past forty years, more so under Kevin "Cuddles Costner with his publicly stated "policing by consent" policy. Police at protests and huge gang funerals primarily acting as mere observers despite clear occurrences of law breaking. Nothing particularly unusual with this latest protest. They openly said they will just observe, wait and let it fizzle out with some arrests for dangerous or threatening behaviour.

The police have also come out this morning critical of Trev's Barry Manilow strategy saying it's not helpful. Apart from making himself (and, by extension the whole country) into a laughing stock Trev's cunning plan has only served to show how mean, petty and vindictive this government really is.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Trev's cunning plan has only served to show how mean, petty and vindictive this government really is."

Yes, playing Barry Manilow music is certainly cruel and unusual punishment. I wonder if they'd rather be tasered or teargassed – bit of a toss-up for me I'm afraid.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Incidentally David, policing by consent is a fundamental concept that goes back to Robert Peel. Would you rather have a militarised police like in the US, or France? I guess it doesn't matter to you as you are unlikely to demonstrate against anything unless it threatens you directly. But even so ... It's amazing how authoritarian some people are until it impinges on their own lives.

David George said...

Oops that should, of course, be Andrew "Cuddles" Coster.

sumsuch said...

More mistakes than mischief, more cock-ups than conspiracy -- introduction of these sayings may help people understand folk, even the government, are just doing their best. Are just us in our human way. Instead of an overpowering force from above. Despite how things have been done since 84.

Ian said...

Lots of Anti-vax propaganda in the comments this time.

Chris is correct. The protesters are overwhelmingly anti-vaxers.

75% unvaccinated and 5% with only one dose (compared with less than 10% of New Zealanders and less than 4% of Wellingtonians that have 0 or 1 doses)

Poll of the protesters

The anti-mandate, "we love you" (but we will rip your mask off, block your bus station and your streets) message is just a smokescreen for anti-vax (and a lesser extent other alt-messages).