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Police actions justified and appropriate during Blockade the Budget demonstration

30 October 2014 - Police actions in dealing with a demonstration in Central Auckland known as Blockade the Budget on 1 June 2012 were justified and appropriate, an Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority has found no evidence to support the various allegations made to it that Police used excessive force in dispersing demonstrators who were blocking a main thoroughfare.

In the lead up to this event the same group held a demonstration on 24 May 2012. Only two or three Police officers attended and there were no arrests. However, the 1 June demonstration resulted in the arrest of 43 people for obstruction.

The Authority notes that Police used more active tactics in dealing with the second demonstration for two reasons. Firstly Police were better prepared, having received prior notice of the protest. Secondly the demonstration was held at the beginning of a long weekend and was blocking a main route out of the city.

Following the demonstration the Authority received a number of complaints from individuals and a complaint from a group calling themselves ‘Blockade the Budget’ representing the demonstrators.

Complaints made against the Police included allegations of excessive use of force and assault during arrest, as well as a general complaint of over-policing the second demonstration and aggressive behaviour towards the demonstrators.

“The Authority considers that the Police officers policing the protest behaved professionally despite being faced with verbal and physical provocation, including the demonstrators’ kicking, punching, knocking off their hats, ripping off their epaulettes and pulling them into a hostile crowd.

“It was only when the demonstrators sat down and blocked the southbound lanes of Symonds Street, causing obstruction and traffic disruption, that Police took action against them,” Sir David said.

Some video footage that has been played in real-time by television media outlets does give the appearance that Police used considerable amounts of force in managing the demonstrators on 1 June 2012. However, after examining this video footage in slow motion, the Authority has found that in these instances Police used approved tactics including open palm strikes and a thumb pressure technique to the neck (a mastoid grip) to remove protesters who had linked arms and were sitting in the middle of Symonds Street. The Police were justified in removing the protesters and the force they used was proportionate, and no greater than was required, to achieve this purpose.

The only complaint the Authority has upheld relates to a Police breach of the demonstrators’ rights in not affording them access to legal advice after they had been arrested.

The Authority notes that Police have since changed their policy for mass arrest processing to ensure this does not recur.
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