Minto arrested because police didn't like his politics: lawyer

Political acitivist John Minto and seven of his fellow protesters were arrested because police did not like their political message about an Israeli tennis player taking part in a New Zealand tournament, a lawyer argued today.

Julia Wakim, Malcolm France, Tania Lim, Thomas Smith, John Darroch, Rochelle Rees, Ruth Amato and Minto appeared in Auckland District Court charged with disorderly behaviour and obstructing police after they protested the presence of Shahar Peer at the ASB Classic tournament in Auckland in January, which they say supported the oppression of Palestine.

Acting Senior Sergeant Marcus Chawner told the court the arrests were made because the protesters were disturbing the peace by using loudspeakers, whistles and a public address system, which could be heard from inside the tennis arena.

He had warned several of the protesters, including Minto, that they could be arrested if they did not turn the volume down, but they persisted.

"(Wakim) started making a loud noise with her tongue through the public address system, Darroch climbed a tree and was shouting 'blood, blood, blood on your hands' or something like that and so I instructed for them to be arrested."

But Wakim's lawyer Rodney Harrison QC played the court video footage of the protest, which showed his client had not been using any sound amplification device.

"Like it or not, she is not using the public address system to make the noise so what you say in your evidence in chief, that was incorrect."

The officer decided to have them arrested not because of the noise they were making but because he did not like their political messages, which were interrupting Auckland Mayor John Banks' speech inside the arena, he said.

"You reached (the decision to arrest them) through a value judgement that saying 'blood on your hands' was unacceptable."

Minto, who is defending himself, joked that it was a "merciful act" for the protesters to drown out the mayor's speech.

Mr Chawner said police had received several complaints from members of the public who just wanted to watch the tennis.

One man told officers that if police did not quell the protest he would "go inside and get 100 people to sort it out for you".

Mr Harrison said if anyone should have been arrested it was this man.

"He's a man who's threatened to take the law into his own hands, why didn't you take action against him instead of people who were taking legitimate protest action?"

The eight accused were remanded at large to appear again on December 20.



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