Saturday 3 November 2007

How the Labour "left" deals with criticism

Labour delegate (and formerly leading figure in the Alliance) Len Richards swings a megaphone at protestors outside the NZ Labour Party conference in Takapuna today. The protestors were there in solidarity with the Urewera 17, and wanted answers from trade union delegates as to whether they would raise the issue inside. The current debate over the powers of the police to close down debate is certainly showing who's on whose side. Note the quote in the article below by Jill Ovens, another Labour delegate and former Alliance leader. Conference protesters allege assault By COLIN ESPINER - | Saturday, 3 November 2007 A protest outside Labour's annual conference in Auckland has turned ugly, with with assault allegations against conference delegates, police confrontation and several arrests. Around 150 protesters have gathered outside the doors of the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, on Auckland's North Shore, in a noisy demonstration against the Government's Suppression of Terrorism Amendment Bill. Protesters alleged that a Labour Party delegate assaulted one of their number while one man was dragged away by police in handcuffs after leaping on a police van. Television camereas appear to show Labour Party delegate Len Richards picking up a megaphone and striking a protester in the face. Waitamata police inspector Paul Marshall confirmed a protester had lodged a complaint with police against a Labour Party delegate, for the alleged assault. Marshall said police would view television footage of the incident before deciding whether to bring charges. Some are wearing combat gear and others are clad in orange boiler suits chained together with gags in their mouths and the words "terrorist" or "anarchist" on their backs. The group is chanting "Helen Clark terrorist" and "no more police state". The protest swelled from just a handful at 9am, and by late morning around 150 had gathered. Police had to call in at least 60 reinforcements after a group tried to break the line and move towards the conference centre. Labour delegates gathered for the party's 91st conference had to run a gauntlet of cries of "shame" as they entered the venue, where they discussing remits on economic and housing policy this morning. A man was arrested for repeatedly attempting to break the police line and spitting in the face of a police officer. Police said they arrested three people, two of whom would be released without charge. A third would be charged with assaulting an officer. Protesters and media swarmed over police as they struggled to hold one man to the ground, who was yelling "police scum". Protesters also claimed the police arrested a young man for performing a haka. Veteran activist John Minto said the protesters were angered by "completely provocative behaviour from the police. "Civil rights are protected by protest not police. Shame on the Labour Government for passing those laws." Minto said Labour delegates could not shrug their shoulders. "It was your party and your Prime Minister that passed these laws and who supported the police actions against Tuhoe." But Labour Party delegate and Service Workers' Union spokeswoman Jill Ovens said protesters did not understand that many in Labour did not support the terrorism bill. "The unions have consistently opposed the Terrorism Suppression Act and we have passed very strong resolutions calling for that action to be repealed. "But I don't support advocating the use of violence because it just turns people against our cause." Prime Minister Helen Clark is due to speak to the conference at 2pm and is yet to arrive at the venue. The protesters are also calling for the release of "political prisoners" arrested by police in the so-called anti-terrorism raids nationwide several weeks ago.

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