5 Feb 2016

Protest leaders: Our tactics were safe

12:43 pm on 5 February 2016

Leaders of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) protests throughout central Auckland yesterday are adamant their tactics were safe, despite police criticism.

Police remove a TPP protester from an Auckland motorway

Police remove a TPP protester from an Auckland motorway Photo: RNZ / Murielle Baker

The contentious trade agreement was signed by 12 countries at SkyCity in Auckland yesterday.

Thousands of people took part in the protests, with hundreds staging sit-ins in front of central motorway on-ramps and exits, as well as at major central city intersections.

Watch coverage by RNZ's John Campbell on the TPP protests in Auckland:

In the end there were no arrests, and police said the vast majority of the protesters were peaceful and well-behaved.

But Superintendent Richard Chambers said he was disappointed with the people who blocked traffic.

"There were occasions when those person put themselves at risk, they compromised their safety, they compromised the safety of innocent people. There were attempts to run in front of vehicles, there were attempts to get on the motorway."

Mr Chambers said officers who policed the protests were anticipating those type of actions.

"That was always a likelihood, that efforts would be made to get onto the motorway, to block intersections. And my police staff have responded as I expected them to - they talked with the people who chose to take that action. We were negotiating with those people throughout."

He said he was aware of an incident where a police officer dragged a protester by her hair, but said it was to stop her running into traffic, and he was satisfied with the actions the officer took.

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sue Bradford was part of a group that spent five hours blockading the motorway entrances and exits.

She told Morning Report the goal was to cause maximum disruption in a way that was non-violent, but in the spirit of disobedience.

She said she sympathised with members of the public who got caught up in the traffic chaos, but they had been warned.

"The people waiting in their cars were not happy and I don't blame them, but there was plenty of warning that there was going to be disruption in the city."

However, she says the protesters made sure to move in emergencies, and they didn't want to cause harm to anybody.

Barry Coates, spokesperson for It's Our Future - Kiwis against the TPPA, said the thousands who turned out in Auckland were just "the tip of the iceberg" of people across New Zealand who did not want to be part of the TPP agreement.

He said that while people made their point with a "very loud, colourful and peaceful" protest, it was disappointing that the government did not appear to be listening to the people.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs