13 teenagers arrested in City Mall protest

01:43, Jan 31 2009
STUDENT ACTION: young protesters express their views on the City Mall revamp in central Christchurch. Thirteen teenagers were arrested during the demonstration. <br><img src="/static/images/misc/cam.gif"><a href="javascript:vPopup('/videoplayer/109042a21415.html',0)"><font size="1"> VIEW VIDEO</FONT></a>

Thirteen teenagers – one only 13 – were arrested for trespass after police dragged them from a noisy protest in Christchurch's City Mall yesterday.

Other youths say they will be back to protest against the demolition of the Stewart Fountain.

The arrested teenagers, nine of whom were later released because they were under 17, were among several waves of protesters occupying the fountain yesterday.

The Christchurch City Council has approved the fountain's demolition as part of a redevelopment of the mall.

Workers moved in to break up the structure yesterday, but they got no further than smashing a concrete seat after Unlimited school students invaded the area at lunchtime and more protesters, armed with tarpaulins and a generator, occupied the fountain in two demonstrations after school.

Police forcibly removed students from the first afternoon protest and talked six protesters into leaving quietly at the later demonstration.


But Jayde Henry, 16, warned they would be back for more. "It will carry on."

She criticised the council for starting demolition work the same day that Christchurch industrialist Sir Robertson Stewart died. The original fountain was bequeathed by Stewart, who also put $200,000 towards its 1998 replacement.

"It's terrible that they started today. They must have known," she said.

Other demonstrators berated the council for demolishing their key meeting place.

"This is what the council does to their children," one handcuffed teenager bellowed from a police van.

Project manager Sean Whitaker commended the teenagers for their passion but said police had to be called when it was clear they were staying the night.

"We don't mind them protesting if they stay outside the fence," he said. "But we were concerned from a health and safety point of view."

A group of about 30 students had been allowed to occupy the site at lunchtime before Unlimited principal Vince Dobbs took most of them back to school.

Dobbs said he had confirmed with Whitaker that it was a safe and sensible protest – "a final opportunity to express their dismay".

However, some of his students returned and were arrested. They were there as individuals out of school hours, Dobbs said.

"As a school, we've registered as strongly as we can our opposition to what is happening there, but there are some of our students who feel very strongly on the issue and have chosen to protest," he said.

Of the students arrested at the first after-school occupation, four have been charged and the nine who were under age will be dealt with by Youth Aid.

Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite said police would have been happy to simply warn the students if they had left the construction zone, but they refused.

A third, smaller group of protesters staged a brief protest on top of the fountain late yesterday afternoon.

If you were at the protest or were arrested, email us your story. feedback@press.co.nz

The Press