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Police under fire over inaction at politically motivated violence

Monday 26 June 2023, 9:34AM

By Women's Rights Party

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The Police handling of the 25 March Albert Park Let Women Speak event has come under fire from multiple quarters.

A group calling itself NZ Media Watch, active on Twitter and describing its goal as "Keeping New Zealand Mainstream Media honest", says “selective enforcement of politically-motivated violence is not a standard of policing New Zealanders should accept.”

Media Watch last night tweeted that Police worked with the Green Party and trans activist Shaneel Lal resulting in Police pulling back to the outskirts of the park and failing to take action as protesters breached the barriers separating them from supporters of pro-women’s activist Kellie-Jay Keen (also known as Posie Parker).

The Women’s Rights Party agrees with Media Watch criticisms of Police handling of the Albert Park violence by an angry mob targeting the women and men who were there to hear Kellie-Jay Keen.

Women’s Rights Party National Secretary Jill Ovens said women learnt that day that “we cannot rely on the Police to treat us as citizens worthy of protecting our right to assemble and to speak”.

Ms Ovens said that when she got to the band rotunda with some other women, there was concern that there appeared to be no police presence.

“We were saying to each other that it feels like we are sitting ducks,” she said. “As the situation deteriorated, I was yelling out to the TV news crew beside me, ‘Where are the Police? Where are the Police?’ ‘Yes it’s crazy,’ the reporter said.”

Tania Surt, a founding member of the Women’s Rights Party and one of the organisers of the Let Women Speak event, says she was trapped on the band rotunda calling the police as the anti-women’s rights crowd surged forward.

“The Police had assured the organisers prior that they would be in attendance and actively policing. By the time Kellie-Jay arrived at the rotunda, we were already worried,” Tania says. “I didn’t see the Police anywhere at all and the police operator kept telling me she couldn’t hear me.”

Tania Sturt says the incident where tomato juice was thrown at Kellie-Jay Keen and also landed on herself, seemed to be a signal for the mob to break through the barriers.

“We were surrounded. People were calling 111 and getting nowhere. There was no sign of the Police as protesters clambered onto the rotunda. We decided we had to break through the mob to get Kellie-Jay out.”

The violence was well documented by video footage, including the assault on a 71-year-old woman by a 20-year-old man. The man punched her repeatedly and viciously.

The case went to the Auckland District Court on April 20 when the man was charged with assault and granted interim name suppression. He was due to appear in the Gisborne District Court on June 12, but was granted diversion and so will not appear again.

Despite video evidence of the more serious Section 194 Male Assaults Female offence, Police charged the man with a Section 196 Common Assault. Diversion is not available to defendants facing a Section 194 charge.

The NZ Herald has today reported the woman’s story for the first time on the basis of her anonymity.

She told the Herald she saw a woman taking down the roped-off area and she put her hand on the protester and said “No this is not fair. This is our space and our turn to speak.”

“She basically laughed at me, pushed me aside, and next thing I got hit in the back of my head.”

The woman told the Herald the first hit was to the back of her head, and from that point she staggered away.

“Everything was black. I can’t remember seeing anything. There was bit of a flash of colour and I thought I was going to fall on one of those spiked railings and I thought he was going to hit me again,” she said.

“I can’t give an accurate timeline of when he punched me in the back of the head, to when he hit me in the face. I made my way through the crowd, who could see I had been attacked. One guy whispered ‘F*** you’ in my ear as I walked past, then saw the side of my face was purple, and ran off.”

The Herald reported that Police later entered the increasingly tense environment to escort Parker (Kelly-Jay Keen) to safety and disperse the crowds.

“This is definitely not the case,” Tania Sturt says. “We had to force our way through the crowd as the mob tried to attack us. I was knocked to the ground and kicked and punched and I lost the others. Kellie-Jay feared she would not get out alive. The marshals, bodyguard and other supporters who helped Kellie-Jay to safety should be commended. Certainly, the Police were no help.”

There have been no arrests made in relation to Tania Sturt’s assault.

The Police did not intervene until Kellie-Jay Keen, the Let Women Speak marshals and the security guards reached Princes Street where police officers were still standing by at their van. No police assistance was offered to anyone else. Kellie-Jay Keen was later hurriedly rushed out of the country under police protection.

There have been numerous official Police complaints made by women who were at Albert Park to support Kellie-Jay Keen, including by Tania Sturt. The few responses received so far indicate the Police are refusing to take responsibility for failing to do their job.

The Women’s Rights Party says the Police owe an apology to the women for their lack of action to protect their rights to free speech and to peaceful assembly.