24 Jan 2012

Aotea Square crackdown attracts more protesters

6:41 pm on 24 January 2012

About 40 Occupy protesters remain at Aotea Square on Tuesday night despite the Auckland Council's attempt to move them on.

The central city square has been occupied since October last year as part of worldwide protests against corporate greed.

On Monday, protesters were ordered to remove tents and other camping equipment breaching a council bylaw that forbids camping.

After a drop in numbers the protest movement has reignited. More people arrived at Aotea Square from early Tuesday as other protest sites in the city were cleared. There are now 17 tents at the park.

A protester who did not want to be named said they decided to unite after splitting into smaller groups before Christmas. He said many do not have tents and are in sleeping bags until their possessions are returned by the council.

Security guards continue to keep guard at the site and at entrances to the council offices on Tuesday night, but are not interacting with the protesters or making any attempt to move them on.

The Auckland Council is refusing to comment on Tuesday night about what its next move might be. Earlier, it said it would continue to issue breach of bylaw notices.

The council said it respects that people have a right to freedom of speech and protest - but not the right to camp indefinitely.

Three people were arrested on Monday for attempting to retrieve their belongings from a van.

Very successful - Minto

Veteran protester John Minto said the Occupy movement has been incredibly successful in getting wide public support for the issues of inequality and class conflict.

Mr Minto told Radio New Zealand's [Morning Report programme on Tuesday he would be astounded if it is confirmed that police in the square on Monday had identical badge identification numbers.

Police are investigating why three officers wore the same badge number on their shoulders.

Mr Minto said he had never heard of a situation like that and it should be treated extremely seriously.