Police are refusing to talk about a young Dunedin activist’s claim they’d been visited by “the boys in blue” today to ask what plans they had to protest the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Scout Barbour-Evans posted on Facebook: “just had a visit from some smug boys in blue asking me what I’ll be doing for the TPPA events. I asked them how they got my address and they said it’s a national directive and are visiting all known activists in the country, they’re ‘just following orders’ “.
3 News approached Police National Headquarters to ask about the “national directive” and to confirm whether they are visiting activists ahead of the signing of the agreement on February 4.
Police told 3 News they won’t be discussing anything they may or may not be doing in relation to the TPP.
However, they later provided a statement saying “police will not discuss any operational details for the event, including staff numbers involved, as is standard for any matters involving security”.
“We can however say that we plan for every eventuality which can be anticipated, and the measures we take will be appropriate and thorough.”
Auckland-based protest organiser and It’s Our Future spokesperson Barry Coates says he isn’t aware of any door-to-door knocking, but says he’s heard police are on the look-out for troublemakers ahead of the signing.
He told 3 News it would be a shame if police were approaching individuals in their homes, and believes it would be scare tactic to deter protesters from taking part in any action.
TPP Action Dunedin spokeswoman Jen Olsen says she has spoken to local police about an upcoming protest march in the city, but has always done so in the past.
Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott says there’s a heightened degree of paranoia, with the Government anxious to put on a good show for the heads of state promoting the TPP.
He says it stands to reason the Government would visit activists and assess whether they’re going to embarrass the Government, but vetting individuals is a “whole new level and does seem to be overkill”.
“They make noise and put up barricades but it’s not like they’re proselytising for ISIS.”
He says we’re seeing more examples of the Government using the police for political purposes, and it’s an extension of the sort of heavy-handed behaviour seen in the raid of the Dotcom mansion and during the Urewera raids.
National manager of response and operations, Superintendent Chris Scahill, says police are responsible for “all aspects of safety and security for the upcoming signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland”.
“We will draw upon our extensive experience of policing a wide range of high profile events in recent years as part of our arrangements.”
Supt Scahill says police will be working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which is managing arrangements for the event.