Nothing is quite as important to a democracy as activist groups that engage in peaceful protest for change. In the past these are the groups that have worked for extending the franchise (including to woman), establishing the rights of workers in employer/employee relationships, the abolition of slavery, campaigned for sewerage systems and clean water reticulation, established the SPCA, opposed apartheid, opposed involvement in wars, etc, etc
These days these are some of the groups carrying on that great tradition. They include Greenpeace and other environmental groups, groups campaigning for animal rights, groups campaigning for beneficaries, groups campaining against GE, groups campaigning against open-cast mining, and groups campaigning against US bases in NZ.
Now, like me you may not agree with some of what these groups are campaigning about. However they do have a right to campaign openly and without fear of malicious harassment by the state. If they do something that breaks the law, then they should should face the law. Sure they need to be monitored but unless they start doing things that are dangerous to the public, then the normal course of the law should apply,
However this has often not been the case. We appear to have a new police minister who doesn’t understand her role in making the public feel secure about the police.
Police Minister Judith Collins said: “This government wants to ensure [the police] have the tools and the support they need to keep the public safe.
“From time to time it may be necessary to use paid informants. I think most New Zealanders would find it reassuring that the police are out there keeping a watch on the whole community. That’s what they’re there for.
“I trust the police to exercise sound judgment and professionalism when deciding where and when to use paid informants.”
Perhaps she should ask exactly what the police have been doing with the current protest groups. Police ministers have little control on the police apart from their budget, and providing one of the few interfaces that the public has into that organization about what is acceptable to the public. However Judith appears to wish to give them a blanket defense.
To my knowledge parts of the police have been abusing the legal systems to harass protest groups. They have used spurious charges regularly that get thrown out by the courts. Most protesters in NZ can show you a large list of charges that have been dropped or failed to met the tests of the court. Intelligence units of the police have used these types of charges to obtain search warrants for intelligence gathering activities because there are no penalties for them to do so even when the charges are thrown out, overturned or dropped. Now it turns out that they have been using paid informants not only to gather information, but also to assist and incite the very activities they are working against.
None of these activities have any realistic repercussions for the Police apart from the increasing unease amongst the young and involved about the police. Having a police minister who isn’t prepared to examine the role and actions of the police just removed one of those protections. That is the action of a thoughtless idiot of a politician.