Hone Harawira defends protest actions

By Kieran Campbell

MP Hone Harawira after his appearance at the Auckland District Court this morning. Photo / NZ Herald
MP Hone Harawira after his appearance at the Auckland District Court this morning. Photo / NZ Herald

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says he accepts his court appearance this morning could be seen as a political stunt - but he has defended his actions during last week's public housing protest.

Surrounded by smiling supporters carrying flags outside Auckland District Court, 57-year-old Harawira said lawyers were lining up to represent him for a charge of failing to comply with a police direction.

Harawira, who was arrested after allegedly refusing to move his car during a public housing protest in Glen Innes on October 11, said he had a sound track record of defending himself in court.

"I pride myself on never having had a lawyer in my life," Harawira said.

"I've defended myself on up to about 30 charges and I think I've only lost one. So I've got a better record than most lawyers that I know."

Harawira dressed in a black T-shirt with the slogan "state houses are state assets" to plead not guilty in court this morning.

He addressed the judge in Maori, "simply saying ... that I didn't agree with the State charging me for defending the rights of the poor and the people who are innocent hanging on to their homes".

Harawira will need to return to Auckland from Wellington next month when his matter will be before the court again.

Four co-accused - Chant Baxter West, Cassidy Ashley Fong, Ella Grace McPherson-Newton and Omar Hamed - were arrested with Harawira and also pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of obstructing police, acting disorderly in public and being reckless to a wasteful deployment of police.

The four opposed a bail condition that police tried to apply that they have no contact with each other before their next court date.

"It's essentially a form of preventing our protesting, not preventing offending," Hamed told the court.

"These are very minor charges ... [and] we might not have a hearing date for six, nine months. All of us study together, all of us are members of the same political groups. [Not being allowed to associate with each other] would be a form of collective punishment."

The condition was dropped from their bail and their matters adjourned until next month.

Activists outside the courthouse waved flags as Harawira and his co-accused arrived at court.

"[This is] part of an ongoing battle, an ongoing struggle at Glen Innes," veteran activist John Minto said.

The red and black flags on busy Albert St attracted the attention of drivers, photographers and news cameras.

Mr Minto said the case was a pity for Harawira and the others charged but he hoped it would be valuable publicity for their protest.

- APNZ

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