Political violence

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, July 10th, 2009 - 12 comments
Categories: crime, history - Tags: ,

A Nelson man attempted to buy a gun to shoot Nick Smith. Details are scant. What could have been a nasty situation looks like is has been well-handled by the Police and DPS.

It must be one of the gnawing worries of being an MP. You and your family are exposed to people who blame you for things that go wrong. We’re lucky, given that there are always a fair few unstable people about, that these kind of incidents are rare. You might remember the hostage taking at Labour MP Rick Barker’s office in Hastings back in 1998 and when Dail Jones (then still with the Nats) was stabbed in the 1980s. I can’t think of any others though.

Expanding the topic slightly, if you’ll forgive me, we can be glad too it’s not like the old days when people on the Left were all too often the target of politically motivated violence from the state.

Massey’s Cossacks in 1913. The special constables (including I’m afraid my great-uncle) in the Queen Street riots. Holland’s declaration ‘we are at war’ when he sent in troops and police against the Watersiders in 1951. The Red Squad beating up young anti-apartheid campaigners in 1981. Bastion Point. There’s an inglorious record of supression of the Left with violence. Thankfully the list of political martyrs from Fred Evans at Waihi to Ernie Abbot, killed in the Trades Hall bombing, is short. It’s good those days seem behind us.
-Marty G

12 comments on “Political violence”

  1. StephenR 1

    Expanding the topic slightly, if you’ll forgive me, we can be glad too it’s not like the old days when people on the Left were all too often the target of politically motivated violence from the state.

    There’s an inglorious record of supression of the Left with violence.

    Just to insert a bit of political partisanry (I think?) into this rather unpleasant issue, should the workers’ hostage-taking of their bosses in France a while back get an honourable mention in this post?

    • Lew 1.1

      I seem to recall a few people here not long ago arguing that bossnapping was a legitimate form of non-violent direct action.


  2. Ari 2

    I’m a little dissapointed that there wasn’t a “NOBODY SHOULD DO THIS, IDIOTS” at the top of the post. 😉

  3. Rex Widerstrom 3

    I can’t think of any others though.

    It’s like suicides, Marty. A lot goes unreported because it’s felt that publicising it would encourage more of them to give it a try.

    I was but a humble candidate in 1993 when I was in the shower and heard shouting and banging in my kitchen. I ran out to find two men grappling with my elderly father while my mother, then-partner and very young children huddled in the corner.

    There followed a scene of a portly naked man wrestling which pre-dated “Borat” by at least a decade 😯

    These two had insisted on volunteering for my campaign but had been sacked after they had:
    – scaled the outside of the Radio Pacific building in Auckland when Winston and I were on air and tried to get in through an open window.
    – been visiting homes in the electorate in the middle of the night asking terrified voters if they’d vote for me, with an unsaid by heavily implied “…or else” left hanging.
    – attacked a Waikato Times ad salesperson in the mistaken belief she was a reporter.
    – decided to make a “real success” of a catered dinner for local business people by photocopying the invitations and bicycling through Hamilton handing them out to all and sundry, resulting in my having to turn away several hundred people who thought they were invited to a dinner for about 20.

    A soon as they were sacked they reacted as I’d feared (which is why I’d been trying to keep them onside) and decided that Winston and I were in fact deep cover agents for some sort of Masonic New World Order.

    And that’s just one campaign…

    Then there’s the stuff that used to come into Winston’s office (I got to open the suspect packages, as it was deemed I had the strongest stomach, though the DPS always weeded out the really offensive and the dangerous).

    One that sticks in my mind simply because of the weirdness quotient were the messages, always in orange crayon and always written on “Footrot Flats” cartoon books, which came at least every week. I’m sure most of Murray Ball’s royalty cheques were thanks to our anonymous correspondent.

    (Since I’m reminiscing anyway, and no one’s probably reading by now…) I worked in Trades Hall at the same time as Ernie Abbot, employed by a Maori social services organisation that had offices there. I’d often say hello to him as I came and went, but never really knew him well.

    I was out at the time the bomb went off and still remember feeling absolute disbelief, coming back to find it cordoned off, that some nutjob had felt strongly enough about what went on in Trades Hall in Wellington to bring to NZ the kind of random violence that, till then, we’d all naively associated with more passionate peoples in the northern hemisphere.

    Later I realised that the mindset that stuffs a suitcase with explosives and calmly walks away, leaving it to kill random innocents (and perhaps not even your intended targets, as in that case) is very different to the hot-blooded rage that drives one to become a special constable (or to wrestle me naked). Not the least because it’s usually undetected before – and often forever after – it’s done what it set out to do.

    • Anita 3.1

      Thank-you for remembering Ernie Abbot the memory of that bombing seems to have been largely erased from the NZ collective memory.

  4. GC Martin 4

    a wee note on my desk says to thank Rex for mentioning Ernie Abbott.. something about the 70s/80s.. and a standout funeral procession in Wtn (?)

    plus I’d like ask lprent whether numbering the comments mightn’t be a useful addition.. certainly for the longer threads.. comments, not replies..

  5. Swampy 5

    People on the left were there because they always have the biggest protest marches. How often do you see a “right wing” march? The VRWC have much better things to do with their time than marching 🙂

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