Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Police defend Harawira arrest (+video)

Police say they were justified in arresting Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and six other people during a housing protest in Glen Innes last night.

The Te Tai Tokerau MP joined members of the Tamaki Housing Action Group, who are fighting the removal of state houses in the east Auckland suburb, and allegedly occupied one property being removed in preparation for redevelopment.

Harawira allegedly locked himself in his car and turned his music up loud, blocking a Housing New Zealand-contracted truck and trailer unit from accessing the property, prompting police to smash a window and remove him.

He has been charged with failing to comply with a police direction, which he said was "seriously over the top".

There have also been allegations police were heavy-handed in their handling of protesters but police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said officers had been justified in their actions.

Police only made the decision to break Harawira's window after "exhaustive" efforts to engage him in dialogue failed. Officers even wrote a message on paper and placed it on his windscreen, she said.

"The operation that unfolded last night was as a direct result of the behaviour of protesters who were unwilling to engage in dialogue and to facilitate the free movement of the truck and trailer unit.

"We don't go about arresting people if they're not breaking any laws, that's not the way we operate."

Six of those arrested, including Harawira, are to appear in Auckland District Court on October 17. The other was given a formal warning.

Three have been charged with obstruction, the other three - who were on the roof - were charged with obstruction and wasting police time.

Harawira said he was raised in a state house and he appreciated the commitment previous governments had shown to ensuring every family had a decent home to live in.

"I have watched the people of Glen Innes torn apart by a deliberate government strategy to evict families who have grown up, married and had children and mokopuna there over the past 40 years.

"Those days are sadly gone," he said.

"For some time now I have watched the Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, make disparaging remarks about the poor and bad jokes about evicting them from their homes, including his National Party colleagues making raucous comments about the folks at Glen Innes.

"I have seen people in despair over the broken promises and the flat out lies from government ministers and their officials who promised them they would never have to leave."

Mr Harawira said the Government had organised a "massive" police presence in Glen Innes.

He said three young women sat on a roof for hours to protest against its removal.

The Tamaki Housing Action Group says the redevelopment is pulling apart the Glen Innes community for the purpose of privatising state houses.

The protesting has been going on for six months - with protesters generally being arrested before being released without charge.

- APNZ

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