Sentencing the ‘Urewera four’ – an affront to our sense of justice? (Part Rua)
Political prisoners in New Zealand?
A protest held outside Wellington’s High Court today (25 May) highlighted the extreme sentences handed down to Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, and statements made by the presiding judge, ‘Justice’ Hansen, which many found offensive and unjust.
The protestors began assembling at mid-day, along with media crews,
With the outrageously extreme prison sentences meted out to Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, the statement below is no longer just rhetoric. How can there be justice when armed, masked men, with the full authority of the State, terrorise a small village in our own country, under the guise of “suppressing terrorism”?
The only terrorism that occurred on 15 October 2007, was households raided, and women and children frightened to death by Darth Vader’s stormtroopers.
The more repressive the State becomes, the more that motivation will be strengthened in people fighting for Tino Rangatiratanga,
And as more and more pakeha join Maori in a growing movement for sovereignty, it will become an irresistable movement,
The protest was addressed by one of the organisors, who said,
” Kia ora tatou, thanks for coming down today, to our very quickly, impromptu demonstration. There are a lot of different reasons people could be protesting today. the reason I’m here is to stand in solidarity with emily and urs who got sentenced to nine months home detention and stand in solidarity with tame and rangi who were sentenced to two and a half years . we’re here to stand in solidarity with all the people who’ve been affected over the last four and half years, by this case. And I’d like to pay respects to Tuhoi Lambert and his whanau. Obviously Tuhoi passed on before the charges could be put before him. So it’s really important for us to remember him on this day.
I’d also like to remind everybody of the symbolic significance of this day. Today is 34 years ago, on the 25th of May 1978, police went in to Bastion Point and cleared the occupation on the 507th day.
These charges; this court case; and these sentences, are just another example of history of the Crown subjugating Maori, subjugating those who stand up and fight up.
So we’re here to stand up and fight back to.
Some of us have been on the picket line since 2007, October 15, over at the District Court , and we’re going to keep fighting these charges. And we’re making the same demands we were making on the 15th of October 2007; drop the charges! “
The speaker continued,
” It’s been noted since the years since the raids of October 15th, 2007, there are questions about the degree of political involvement in the operation, particularly in the political attempts by the then Labour-government to interfere with the subsequent judical process. There are questions that need to be answered about the racism of the operation. There are questions that need to be asked about the shocking abuse and mistreatment of innocent people during operation.
For example, in the Maori community of Ruatoki, that was the only community that was locked down and blockaded in the course of the operation. It was only there that innocent people stopped, searched, and harrassed, going about their daily lives. When houses were raided in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and elsewhere, the surrounding suburbs were not locked down and no innocent pakehas were stopped going about their daily lives.
Many of the actions in and around Ruatoki were taken outside of public scrutiny, and thus were more traumatising for people concerned, especially when they involved physical mishandling and detention. The Chief Justice, Sian Elias found that the police had collected their evidence illegally and allowed the Crown to pursue charges against the urewera 4 only because of the criminal gang charge. The jury was hung on that charge and so the fight continues for the charges to be dropped.”
Meanwhile, media recorded the protest,
Talking with some of the activists,
” What your first thoughts when you heard about the sentencing of Tame and the other?”
“ I thought it was outrageous , I mean considering the fact they were not found guilty of anything relating to the terrorism charges, or anything relating to the actual forming of a private militia as the judge said. I think it was a personal, political agenda that was being pushed. It was just the pound of flesh that the government wanted. “
” Can I just ask you, what’d you think when you heard about the sentencing? “
” What do I think? I think it’s political. I think it’s political that Tame and Rangi particularly are being punished for asserting Te Mana Motuhake for Tuhoi. I think the arms charges are pretty minor, they weren’t able to get them on terrorism charges or on organised crime charges, so they’ve just escalated the sentences for some actually quite minor ones, and that’s political in nature. “
As the protestors stood in dignity, passing cars and trucks were tooting their horns in support. Public support was surprisingly very much in evidence.
Some beautifully-drawn footpath-art, drawn by one of the protestors,
And with another of the activists,
” What did you think when you heard the sentencing? “
” Oh, absolute disgrace. An injustice. Racist and politically motivated. “
” What do you think the government should be doing about this? “
” Dropping the charges. And an apology also for the people of Tuhoi, because it’s not just Tame Iti and the four that’ve have been sentenced unjustly, it’s their whanau and the people of Tuhoi that they’re ignoring.”
” So you think that the sentencing was of a racist nature? “
” I do. And politically motivated. And the sentencing judge was a single person, and I think he over-rode the findings of the jury and was driven by his own perspective on things.”
” He seemed to be making comments that weren’t even really related to the charges that they were found guilty of. “
“That’s right. It was excessive, and it should be thrown out. It’s going to waste more money. It was just a continuation of State oppression and excessive, State bullying and the the injustice of the whole situation. So, yes, when I found out I was absolutely gutted and mortified. “
” What was your first thought when you heard about Tame and the others being sentenced? “
” I was really shocked, I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I should have been, it was naive of me… I think that everyone in Ruatoki should get an apology and monetary compensation. I think Tame and Urs and all should be aquitted. “
” What was your first imediate reaction when you heard about the prison sentences?”
” That they’re perpetuating the hurt… I think that the charges were bought using illegal evidence and I they shouldn’t be sentenced on the basis of illegal evidence. How can the government, the crown expect us to operate legally when they’re operating illegally?
They have no right to do that, they should be setting the standard, not lowering it.”
Police officer moving protestors of the street, and back onto the footpath. Supposedly for “safety” reasons, the same policeman moved this blogger off the street, and back onto the footpath as well. His reasoning was that we were causing a potential traffic hazard.
The police could just as easily used their police vehicle (partially visible between policeman and protestor with loud-hailer) to block part of the two-lane street. Traffic was low-to-moderate, as it was not yet rush-hour traffice.
However, he was courteous and readily explained the reasoning behind his actions.
Thinking out loud, and thoughts many will share,
= fs =
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