Glen Innes housing protest escalates

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 09:09 19/04/2012

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Residents affected by a major state housing redevelopment in Tamaki say clashes with police have galvanised them and they are prepared to prolong their fight.

Protesters continued to voice their anger in Glen Innes last night, with around 100 people marching from the police station to Torrington Cres and back after one of them was hurt and six others arrested in confrontations with police on Tuesday night.

The injured woman, who suffered seizures after her head reportedly struck the ground, remains in Auckland City Hospital and will be released today, according to one of her friends.

Police have said they acted appropriately and denied allegations of using excessive force when they moved in to break up the Silverton Ave protest on Tuesday night.

Many people who have lived in the area for years have been relocated as part of the housing redevelopment, with no guarantees they will be able to return.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira joined protesters as they marched and chanted at last night's rally. Police attended and filmed the group.

Protester Marion Peta said the clashes had galvanised them, adding it was now "more serious".

"I felt our group grew last night because of that," she said.

"The march from the police station up to Torrington was amazing. There was just flags and people everywhere."

Their cause was getting more attention and they had received support from around the world, she said.

"All we know for sure is something's wrong."

The group held a rally and speeches in Torrington Cres last night where police officers and paddy wagons waited - "another overkill like the night before", Peta said.

Peta said many involved in the rally, which included affected tenants, the Tamaki Housing Group, Occupy Auckland and Mana Maori, were "quite hyped because of the treatment that we had received the night before but we chose to pick our battle and to wind our march up back down at the police station".

They chanted "Our civil rights are under attack! Stand up! Fight back!"

There were no arrests last night.

Protesters say the police response on Tuesday marked a change from the previously peaceful demonstrations, in which people have laid in front of the house removal trucks to stop them leaving.

Peta, who says residents are angry at "false, empty promises" and a lack of information, claimed six protesters were "manhandled" by officers.

"It's my first experience with being pushed around like that. They were so rough with us and they walked over us. Police absolutely overreacted."

She claims she was struck in the throat and saw a doctor yesterday.

She and another woman, Phillis Pomare, say they are going to lay complaints with police as a result and that protest action will continue today.

She said the woman in hospital was shoved by officers who then prevented people from going to her aid.

"They hit Yvonne (Dainty). That wasn't an accident. They shoved her so hard and as she fell backwards she hit her head on the ground. Then she started having a seizure. They wouldn't let me go so I could help her. They just walked right over her."

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Police confirmed a protester suffered a seizure and emergency services attended to treat her.

Glen Innes Senior Sergeant Graeme Porter said the woman had a history of seizures and that she had fallen.

Police had formed a line to push the protesters back, he said yesterday.

''The police acted in a fair and professional manner,'' he said. ''It was a tricky, emotional situation but police treated the protesters in a professional manner.''

Other protesters, including veteran activist John Minto who was arrested and claims to have been injured, criticised the police response as unnecessary and "thuggish".

Displaced residents have been protesting against the move since February and when contractors began removing the houses earlier this month, police were called when several tried to stop the trucks getting onto the site.

The Tamaki Housing Group claims to have requested a moratorium on the Government's Tamaki Transition Project, with contractors currently in the process of removing 40 state houses from Silverton Ave.

The project involves the redevelopment of 156 Housing New Zealand properties to create 260 new homes.  Only 78 of those will be owned by Housing New Zealand, 39 will be owned by other social and community housing providers charging higher rent and the other 143 houses will be for private sale.

Another 40 state houses in the area will be modernised.

Residents have continued to fight the project with many saying they have been in the area for decades and don't want to leave.

There are no guarantees those who have been moved to allow for the redevelopment will be able to move back.

- Auckland Now

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