30 Oct 2014

Police cleared of protest brutality

6:34 pm on 30 October 2014

An independent investigation has cleared police of using excessive force in breaking up a student demonstration in central Auckland two years ago.

In a decision released at midday today, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found police actions were "justified and appropriate".

Protesters involved in the Blockade the Budget march on 1 June 2012 had complained that police punched and grabbed some people, and dragged a seated woman by the scarf.

They claimed people who were linked by their arms were forcibly removed by the neck and jaw.

However, Authority chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said officers behaved professionally despite 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."

Of the 300 protesters, 43 were arrested for obstruction, and four were prosecuted.

The same group had held a demonstration a week previously, which was attended by only two or three police officers and there were no arrests.

The authority said police used more "active tactics" in dealing with the second demonstration because they had received advance warning.

Secondly, the demonstration was held at the beginning of a long weekend and was blocking a main route out of the city.

However, the authority upheld a complaint that some demonstrators were denied access to legal advice after their arrest, due to a shortage of phones.

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