COMMENT:Why are we so intimidated by gangs in this country? When did we start thinking they have more important rights than the general public?
I see that police are defending their decision to close a public road so that a Mongrel Mob ceremony could take place.
So a road that's available to everyone - a public road - closed off for a gang.
The public inconvenienced. For a gang.
This was the Te Mata Peak summit road in Hawke's Bay, a popular tourist spot and thoroughfare.
Police cited 'public safety' as the reason they closed the road - they reckon they didn't want too many cars creating a hazard. But wouldn't there have been no risk of hazards had a gang not decided to conduct a ceremony there?
We don't know what kind of ceremony attracted the large number of Mongrel Mob to congregate, but word is it was a patching or welcoming ceremony for new recruits.
Tourists, prevented form getting up the peak due to the ceremony, were understandably shocked.
Imagine it: Welcome to New Zealand, feel free to enjoy our vistas and wide public spaces - just not if a gang wants to use them, sorry. If a gang's up there you'll just have to naff off.
Some tourists said they were intimidated by the gang members' presence. No kidding. Not really what you expect on a trip up Te Mata Peak.
Police are defending their decision by saying it's a public place, and it's not illegal to gather in a public place.
But a Hastings District councillor pointed out that "if any other group or organisation wanted to use both the road access and the summit car park, they would have had to seek prior approval from the council, which would also require public notification". None of which happened.
So how did the gang ride roughshod over the rules, and in doing so, get supported by police?
What we did get as a result of the gathering was two arrests. Two arrests, one of which was for breach of bail, and on top of that, a litany of complaints from people regarding the traffic and lack of access.
So it's fine for a gang to gather and have the luxury of a road closed for them to do so, but it's not OK for tourists and locals to access? That's priorities out of whack for you, surely.
I thought Police Minister Stuart Nash was all about closing down the gangs? Not closing roads for them? I thought we weren't about allowing gangs to congregate and intimidate?
Am I missing something here?
Are gang patching ceremonies, or whatever it was, now more important than free public access to public spaces?