In a democratic society, the right to protest is a fundamental freedom. When we restrict or demonise civil resistance, we’re doing our democracy a disservice.
|Photo courtesy of Lisa Gibson|
News broke last night that Glen Innes Police moved to arrest Hone Harawira, MP and leader of the Mana Party. A number of other protestors were arrested as well. According to John Minto, the Mana Party spokesperson, Hone parked his car behind a removal truck and refused to move. The Police wanted to tow the car, but they had to remove Hone first. The Police smashed “at least one window” and arrested Hone for “failure to remove a vehicle”.
Judging from the reaction from some on the right, you’d have thought Hone rammed a cop. Well, he didn’t. He was exercising his right to protest. A right that we as a society should not demonise or take for granted. The Bill of Rights Act 1990 provides the “freedom of peaceful assembly” and a “freedom of expression”. The right to protests is, in my opinion, a manifestation of the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression.
Having said that, there is no right to break the law and break the law is what Hone did, apparently. Well, that’s not for you, I or the Police to decide. In any event, Hone clearly lacked criminal intent. And isn't minor and technical law breaking an accepted aspect of civil resistance? From the civil rights movement in the US to Bastion Point in NZ.
Hone is known for pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in a democratic society. After all, he comes from a proud activist tradition. I think there is something noble and uniquely New Zealand in an elected MP opting to risk arrest for the rights of the powerless. In his own words, Hone says:
I didn't go there to get arrested. I went there to show solidarity and support… I went with my wife. To show her the commitment of the families of GI.
These are families who have been there since just after the Second World War, and they are being pushed out of their house.
Good on ya, Hone.