From my speech to open the 'Explosive Expression' art auction to raise funds for the defendants, Thistle Hall, Wellington 17 October 2009
I don't think it is necessary to recite the events of 15th October 2007. The details are well covered on the 'October 15th solidarity' website. But what I would like to do is reflect for a moment on the implications for us today, two years later. These are well illustrated by the main story in todays Dominion Post. The cover has a huge article with photo, based on a “rare interview with a serving member of the Armed Offenders Squad”. In case you missed it, there is also the whole of D1 and D2 - the front page and second pages of the Insight section. This coverage highlights the increasingly difficult objective that the police now have in relation to these charges, which is to come out at the end of these trials without more serious embarrassment.
You will recall that the case began with a triumphant trumpeting of how police has busted a major terror ring. That has now been reduced to some illegal firearms charges, although there has been a late attempt to construct some flimsy 'criminal gang' charges. We are yet to see what evidence the police will even be able to bring to court. And now, just as the country seemed to be forgetting all about this embarrassing case, the October 15th solidarity committee has pu tit all back on national TV! So clearly, these article in the DomPost are not a coincidence. They are a police fluff piece, a propaganda fight back.
The other police objective is to drain as much of the resources as they can from the activist community. Every activist in the room has seen this tactic before. Police have unlimited funds to take prosecutions – not just for the legal team but for police appearances in court, transport and all of the machinery of the legal system. The defendants, on the other hand, appear in court at a huge personal cost, both financial and otherwise. They have to get to hearings, they have to accommodate themselves and feed themselves while they stay in Auckland, they have to transport themselves to and from court, plus there is the time and the enormous amount of emotional energy burned up in these cases. The depositions hearings recently concluded took about 5 weeks, and the trials will take much longer. That is why is event is so crucial, both in terms of demonstrating solidarity and support for the defendants and in helping in a practical, financial way. The money raised tonight will not go to pay lawyers, but will be spent on meeting those basic needs.
The second thing todays paper illustrates is the continued collusion between the police and the mainstream media, particularly Fairfax. When the arrests were first made public, I clearly recall the general public mood being one of suspended disbelief. It all seemed a bit unlikely and people were waiting to see what the evidence looked like. Even the general accusations of guns, napalm and terror training manuals being flung around by Helen Clarke and others did not really convince people. The illegal publication by the Dominion Post and other Fairfax media outlets of highly selective, misleading and sensationalist extracts of surveillance transcripts changed all that. Even some people with a history of supporting activism were moved to make public comments hostile to the defendants. That those extracts were unattributed only served to tar all the defendants with those allegations.
When the Solicitor General prosecuted them for contempt of court over those extracts the High Court decided in favour of Fairfax. The Court said that Fairfax should have instead been charged by the police for breaching both court suppression orders and those provisions of the Crime Act against disclosure of intercepted communications, stating that “we are at a loss to understand why these breaches were not prosecuted”. I'm not at a loss. They were not prosecuted because those leaks benefited the police. I do not have any evidence to prove that the police actually gave Fairfax the nod, but it seems likely to me. Today's articles are simply an extension of that cosy symbiotic relationship.
We can take these articles as proof of a successful week! The State terror raids have been put back on top of the public's mind. The initiative has been seized and regained. A creative and imaginative response to attempted State intimidation has been effected. Solidarity and trust have been enhanced. In supporting this auction tonight you are supporting the defendants and their communities. You are also supporting the right to do activism. You are defending the space to do activism. We need that space now more than ever before, so please bid generously tonight. Bid extravagantly. Bid irresponsibly. It is your civic duty!