Police investigated over Occupy eviction

Police have confirmed three officers are the subject of an employment investigation after they wore matching identification numbers at an operation to remove Occupy protesters in Auckland today.

Occupy protesters are still refusing to leave their central Auckland base despite most of their tents being pulled down and three people being arrested.

Scenes became heated when some occupiers refused to leave their tents when Auckland Council-appointed security guards from private companies Red Badge Security and ProVision Security tried to dismantle the tent city in Aotea Square.

Most of the tents were taken down by the security guards, supported by 20-30 police, when they descended on the square about 8am today.

The Occupy bases at Victoria Park, Albert Park and at 360 Queen St were also dismantled.

This evening police have confirmed three officers will be investigated for an alleged breach of a policy which requires each officer to wear their own identication number.

Individual occupiers had been asked for their names and issued council notices saying they were in breach of various bylaws.

Security guards packed the Aotea Square tents and their contents into brown sacks and loaded them into a van.

Two occupiers pushed past security guards and clambered into the van and started hurling the sacks out, claiming their property was being stolen.

A tug of war over the sacks ensued and police arrested the protesters for breaching the peace when the argument became heated.

The protesters refused to stand and had to be dragged some of the way to a waiting police van.

They were released without charge about an hour later.

A third occupier was arrested at another of the sites.

One elderly occupier, Charles Turner, told APNZ he wasn't at the site when his tent was dismantled and taken away.

His heart medication was inside and he could get gravely ill if he did not take it by tomorrow morning, he said.

Council officials said they were trying to locate Mr Turner's belongings and would get the medication to him as soon as possible.

Auckland City acting area commander Inspector Mike McIlraith said it was a council-led operation and police were merely there to ensure the council was able to carry it out safely.

ProVision Security manager Gordon McMahon said if the protesters continued to refuse to interfere with the removal of the tents they would be issued with another notice within 24 hours.

He said he did not know what would happen if they continued to disobey the council's orders after that.

Joe Carolan, a member of the Unite Union and Mana Party, was helping to organise a rally to Mayor Len Brown's office later this afternoon.

"Len Brown, when he was elected, purported to be on the side of the poor in this city and now we see he doesn't take a side when the wharfies are locked out down at the port and rather than just not take a side here, he's sent the police in to try and close down this movement.''

He compared what happened today with the Bastion Point protest in the 1970s when police and the army forcibly removed occupiers.

"For anyone who's seen what happened at Bastion Point this looks the same: people here have been peacefully protesting and we see ourselves surrounded by a huge show of force.''

He said today's activities would only make the movement stronger.

"You can't close down an idea using the police. What this movement is about is not just camping, it's not just about occupying a space of land, this is actually questioning why there is such injustice and economic inequality in western society as a whole.''

Mr Carolan questioned the legality of today's events.

"There's still things being contested in court and ... it looks like the council has decided on this form of unilateral action separate to that process.''

One occupier, who only wanted to referred to by her first name, Lara, said she was woken by her tent shaking violently this morning.

"I didn't even have time to open my tent before somebody was opening it for me and he just asked me my name and read me a paper. I didn't understand a word because he was speaking very fast and then I asked him to explain it to me in simple English and he just told me I had to get my things together and to leave or else they would do it for me.''

Today's events would not deter her from continuing to support the Occupy Movement.

"I think you can't break a movement just because you ask people to take the tents down.

"The idea is still here, the anger is still here so the movement still exists and it's all over the world anyway.''

Anglican Minister Christopher Huriwai said he was disturbed by today's events.

"I doesn't seem right. It seems that this shouldn't be happening in New Zealand. I think about what happened in Tuhoe (the 2007 Urewera raids in which 17 people were arrested, the majority of whom were subsequently discharged) and all of a sudden it starts to make horrible, horrible sense.

"It's not an issue of whether I 100 per cent agree with the occupiers, for me it's my conviction that if Christ was walking on the earth he would be here.''

Veteran protester John Minto, who was one of the first to pitch tent in Aotea Square, said the eviction was "piggish'' behaviour from Auckland Council.

He rejected an accusation the protesters were interfering with council events and public enjoyment of parks.

"That's just bulls**t. That's just lies - rubbish. They'd just prefer not to have banners and placards in parks.

"The Occupy movement has not interfered whatsoever with the rights of the public. It may have looked an eyesore from Len Brown's window.''

Mr Minto insisted neither of the two people arrested had resisted police or council warranted officers.

The arrests were just "one of those things'', he said.

'"This has been a very successful movement - no matter how many people are arrested or how many tents are ripped down by zealous council officers.''

Occupier Campbell Jones said protesters would carry on making their voice heard despite the "concerning'' council and police action.

"The resolve is set to continue. Part of the Occupy movement is the tents but the part that's far more important is the message.

"We're saying financial violence has become pretty much invisible.''

A council statement said the Occupy protesters were interfering with its ability to take bookings and plan for community events such as this year's Auckland Lantern Festival in Albert Park.

It said the movement had the right to protest but not to camp indefinitely on council land.

"Auckland Council has restated its determination to respect and protect the right of citizens to free speech, but says it will not allow illegal camping in Auckland's public spaces, which its citizens want returned to them.''

Occupy Wall St began a global protest in New York last September and protesters had been camped out in Auckland since October.


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