[Ppnews] The New Zealand "Terror Raids" against indigenous activists

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Feb 19 13:46:57 EST 2008


February 19, 2008

Land of the Long White Lie

The New Zealand Terror Raids


On October 15 2007, the New Zealand police 
carried out unprecedented nation-wide raids 
arresting 17 indigenous rights activists and 
anarchists and raiding some 60 different 
locations. The arrests were based on surveillance 
and interception warrants obtained under the 
Terrorism Suppression Act. This was the first 
time that the police used this Act, a law passed 
immediately after 9/11 and a direct result of it.

The raids were staged on a Monday morning 
starting at approximately 5am. At 5:45 am, the 
Police knocked on my door. Then they nearly broke 
it down. When I opened it, 15 officers swarmed 
in, waving an 80-page search warrant in my face. 
When I said, 'this isn't signed,' the detective 
responded 'here, here's the signed copy.' Then 
they ransacked my room, pulling my plants out of 
their containers, removing the back of my 
refrigerator and collecting a raft of documents, 
photographs, electronic gear and clothing. 
Finally, they arrested me and told me that I was 
going to be charged with participating in a terrorist group.

The raids came as a huge shock to me, to most of 
the country and to the world that follow such 
events. New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa-the 
'land of the long white cloud' in the indigenous 
language of the M_ori people-has a reputation for 
amicable race relations, a progressive government 
and an enviable settlement process for indigenous 
claims against breaches of the Treaty of 
Waitangi, the founding treaty between Maori and 
the British Crown, signed in 1840 by some 500 chiefs.

What is actually happening in Aotearoa beneath 
the government's clever 'clean, green, 100 per 
cent pure' marketing campaign is not at all what 
they would lead you to believe.

On day one of the raids, there was a media frenzy 
as the police carefully leaked tantalizing 
nuggets of evidence including reports of napalm 
bombs, assassination plots against Prime Minister 
Helen Clark and President George W Bush, and an 
'IRA-style war plan.' The 17 arrestees were 
brought before District Court judges in four 
different cities to respond to the charges. One 
was dealt with immediately by the courts and 
dismissed, the remaining 16 all went to prison 
that night, remanded in custody as bail was 
vigorously opposed by the Crown prosecution.

We were deemed a threat to 'national security.' 
In the cloud of terrorism hysteria and secret 
evidence, our lawyers would not even attempt an application for bail.

The New Zealand Government has signed up for all 
of Bush's post-9/11 terrorism requirements. At 
the same time, it imported the US Government's 
brutal tactics of repression, surveillance 
technologies and police hyper-paranoia about 
political activity, particularly when it comes 
from indigenous activists who dare to speak of aspirations of sovereignty.

Of the 17 arrested on 15 October, 12 were Maori, 
many from the Tuhoe iwi (tribe). Tuhoe is known 
for its long history of resistance to 
colonization. They never signed the Treaty of 
Waitangi. There is a story that the Crown agent 
was advised that he would be eaten if he 
attempted to come into Tuhoe land in order to get 
the Treaty signed. Today, Tuhoe have the one of 
the highest ratios of native speakers of the 
Maori language (called 'te reo') among tribal 
groups and have a strong cultural identity that 
is intimately linked to the land in an area that 
they call 'Te Urewera,' land of the mist. There 
are about 20,000 people who claim Tuhoe ancestry, 
many of whom are still living in relatively 
isolated communities within Te Urewera.

The raids and arrests were the culmination of an 
$8 million dollar, two-year long operation dubbed 
'Operation Eight'. On the day of the raids, some 
300 police were involved. Most had little 
knowledge of the investigation or the suspects; 
none it seems had any knowledge of the history of 
the Crown's scorched earth policy, murder, and 
land theft which prompted fierce resistance by Tuhoe more than 100 years ago.

The forces of the state have a convenient way of 
forgetting things that don't suit the current 
narrative. Such was the case on October 15. In a 
spectacular display of force, armed, 
balaclava-clad police known as the 'armed 
offenders squad' quite literally invaded the 
small Tuhoe town of Ruatoki and blockaded the 
entire community. On an elaborate quest for 
terrorists and evidence, they stopped all 
vehicles coming in or out of the community and 
photographed the drivers and occupants. In the 
process of conducting house raids, they severely 
traumatized many people, including locking a 
woman and five children in a shed for six hours 
while the man of the family was questioned, 
taking a woman's underwear as evidence, and boarding a local school bus.

In one South Auckland raid, the police held an 
entire family, including a 12 year old girl, on 
their knees with hands behind their heads for 
some 5 hours, asking the young woman if she was a 
terrorist. This was the pattern for raids in the Maori communities.

For the non-indigenous arrestees (referred to 
herein as 'pakeha' a word that means white New 
Zealander), the situation was starkly different. 
In my case, I was not even handcuffed as I was 
walked to the car. No white neighborhoods were 
blockaded, nor were white bystanders stopped and 
photographed as they went about their daily 
business that cool Monday morning in October. It was only Maori.

The institutional racism of the police and 
justice system came as no surprise to Maori 
people and particularly to Tuhoe who have been 
subject to its arbitrary acts for some 160 years. 
For pakeha throughout the country, it was a 
wake-up call. Unfortunately, it was less a 
wake-up call about racism than it was about the 
growing power of the state against political 
dissidents. I say it was unfortunate because it 
is clear from the nearly 10,000 pages of evidence 
I have now seen, that it is Maori sovereignty 
that they fear. It is the political force of 
unified indigeneity that scares the ruling class of New Zealand.

For Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand, the 'war on 
terrorism' and these raids are part of a long 
history of colonization in Aotearoa New Zealand, 
and they have not been forgotten.

In the 1860s, the Suppression of Rebellion Act 
was passed with strikingly similar language to 
the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002. This 
earlier Act was used by the fledgling New Zealand 
State to launch a series of vicious attacks on 
Maori communities in order to appropriate their 
land for settlement. People and whole tribes were 
defined as 'in rebellion' in order that the State 
could then exercise a range of repressive and 
exploitative measures against them.

I was arrested, I believe, to provide a cloak for 
the racist nature of the operation.

By arresting some pakeha activists, the 
government could deflect criticism that this was 
an operation against Maori. I was also arrested 
because I am associates with the Maori accused in 
the case, and because as an anarchist I have 
caused enough problems and embarrassments for the 
state that they would like to put me out of their 
misery. In June of last year, I published a book 
detailing the New Zealand government's 
involvement in the 'war on terrorism.' In it, I 
suggested that both dissidents and Maori were 
targets of the war, along with refugees and 
migrants. It was not without a sense of bizarre 
irony and a certain grim satisfaction that I sat 
in my prison cell and congratulated myself on being right.

Needless to say, in a country of 4 million 
people, there are not six degrees of separation, 
but usually only one or two. There most certainly 
is a connection between anarchists, 
environmentalists, anti-war and indigenous rights 
activists: most of them know each other and work 
together regularly. One would have to exist in a 
state of utter delusion not to make the 
connections between these issues, particularly in 
New Zealand where the effects of the self-imposed 
neo-liberal structural adjustment of the 1980s is 
being felt more acutely everyday.

The New Zealand Parliament is Westminster-style 
with mixed-member proportional representation. At 
present, the governing Labor party maintains 
power through a delicate balance of negotiated 
agreements, some formal, some informal, with 
other smaller parties that give support on vital confidence and supply votes.

As with the British Labor Party, the New Zealand 
Labor party long ago shed any resemblance to a 
working-class based party and has wholeheartedly 
embraced neo-liberal economics. This has had 
major implications for Maori who in the main 
reject its ubiquitous commodification, 
particularly with regard to flora, fauna, land 
and intellectual property. Nevertheless, up until 
very recently Maori had continued to support 
Labor generally, and all of the Maori electorate 
seats in Parliament were held by the Labour Party.

In 2004, the Government passed the Foreshore and 
Seabed Act, which had the effect of extinguishing 
Maori rights to claim customary ownership of the 
land between the high tide and low tide marks, 
and to the seabed. In contravention of 
international law and despite condemnation by the 
UN, the Government pressed ahead with the law, 
with near unanimous support in parliament. The 
following year the Treasury began to include a 
line-item in the annual financial accounts for 
these newly acquired Crown assets. This grotesque 
confiscation was considered a declaration of war 
by some Maori. It ruptured the Labor Party and 
brought about the formation of the Maori Party. 
This now presents a significant threat to Labor's 
hold on the Maori vote, and more importantly, to their hold on power.

Politically, this is one of the primary factors 
behind the raids. In the lead up to the 2008 
election, it is crucial that Labour cast radical 
Maori as a dangerous threat to the stability of 
New Zealand. This was a gamble by Prime Minister 
Helen Clark and her cabal to secure a third term 
through a tactic of divide and conquer. In the 
media Clark repeatedly stated that the raids were 
'an operational matter for the police,' but 
behind the scenes in Wellington, every politico 
knows that nothing of consequence happens without her direct and explicit nod.

Another significant political factor prompting 
the raids is the government's relationship with 
the US and its other close defense partners. As a 
member of the exclusive five-nation UKUSA 
intelligence network (along with the US, UK, 
Canada and Australia), New Zealand's security and 
police are intimately tied to a distinctive 
post-War relationship with the US. This 
relationship, and the resultant organizational 
links, has played a significant role in New 
Zealand's response to US terrorism hysteria. 
Further, the New Zealand government has separate, 
internal reasons for adopting much of the new terrorism legislation.

Prior to 9/11, the Terrorism Suppression Bill was 
before the Select Committee and was simply 
intended to ratify two existing UN conventions 
against terrorism. After 9/11, the law was 
radically re-written, kept secret from the 
public, while the Government and the opposition 
rushed to appear resolute in support of the US.

Fortunately, the changes were leaked and there 
was significant public opposition that eventually 
mitigated the worst aspects of the Act. 
Unfortunately, there were many more Acts that 
followed. These Acts mirror changes to US law and 
include the Border Security Act, the Maritime 
Security Act, the Telecommunications 
(Interception Capability) Act, the Identity 
(Citizenship and Passports) Act, the Security 
Intelligence Act and amendments to both the 
Immigration Act and the Crimes Act.

Along with these legislative changes, the state's 
security and surveillance services received 
massive funding injections and personnel 
increases ­ all in the name of fighting 
terrorism. Given this environment with all their 
new toys, eventually, the police and spooks had 
to find a terrorist. They tried desperately to 
pin that label on exiled Algerian politician 
Ahmed Zaoui who came to New Zealand at the end of 
2001 on a false passport. When that failed, as it 
did in 2006 when the security risk certificate 
against him was revoked, they set to work finding 
others to fill the 'terrorist' role. The culture 
of these agencies is such that they view 
ex-parliamentary political activity as dangerous; 
they view Maori politically activity as particularly dangerous.

So the stage was set and the roles cast when some 
300 police mounted the first ever 'terror raids' late last year.

The Terrorism Suppression Act was the tool to 
obtain extensive interception warrants for 
bugging cell phones and cars, but the people who 
were arrested were initially charged only for 
joint possession of firearms and restricted 
weapons under the Arms Act. In order for the 
Terrorism charges to be laid, the police first 
had to get the approval of the Attorney General.

In the first week following the raids, I sat in 
solitary confinement with no access to news or 
information. I was in shock. I have been arrested 
several times in the past for political activity, 
but have never been to prison. I was scared. I 
was also lucky because one of my dearest friends 
had been arrested that morning and was there with 
me. We had adjoining cells and could communicate 
by yelling over a 25 foot concrete wall in the 
yard outside between our cells. After the third 
day, I got a book to read: Kurt Vonnegut's 
Jailbird. It made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes.

When they finally moved us to the general 
population at the end of the first week, it felt 
like a glorious place - which just goes to 
demonstrate how quickly and easily solitary 
confinement breaks down your resistance and your 
tether on reality. It was beautiful to hear 
voices, to hear music, to go outside and to be able to see the hills and sky.

By the end of that first week, our lawyers 
managed to put forward an application for bail. 
We arrived at the Wellington District Court to a 
mass of supporters and media. Within minutes of 
the start of the hearing, everyone except the 
media was excluded from the courtroom. It was an 
ominous beginning to one of the most disturbing and difficult days of my life.

In the hours that followed, the Crown prosecutor 
painted a picture of us as a group of people who 
had been training to commit terrorist acts. We 
were accused of attending camps in the Urewera 
area where we used guns, Molotov cocktails and 
napalm. The fact that my three immediate 
co-accused had no convictions of any kind, and I 
had very minor ones, was used to prove our ill 
intention to get out of prison and carry out that 
which we had been planning. Once the terror label 
was used, no judge in the country, or indeed the 
world, would bail us. We went back to prison that 
Friday evening and I felt very, very dark.

On Monday 29 October, the police finally put 
their evidence to the Solicitor General in order 
that the charge of 'participating in a terrorist 
group' could be brought against us. That night, I 
was interned in my new cell with no one to talk 
to or to question about what might happen next. I 
had been moved 500 miles north to the Auckland 
women's correctional facility in a secretive 
mission worthy of bin Laden or at least his best mate.

By Wednesday, Prime Minister Helen Clark could no 
longer hold her tongue and waded into the debate. 
She arrogantly breached the sub judice standard ­ 
the term used for the right to a fair trial ­ 
commenting that those arrested 'at the very least 
had been training with firearms and napalm'. The media circus continued.

Throughout the country, protests, rallies, 
fundraising and awareness raising gigs were 
organized and what remains of the political left 
in New Zealand rallied around the arrestees. The 
political analysis ranged from debate about 
indigenous sovereignty to civil rights and 
surveillance. The mainstream media continued its 
tradition of sensationalist reporting, 
ill-informed conclusions and downright 
fabrications. The media concentration in Aotearoa 
New Zealand is one of the highest in the world, 
with nearly all the major dailies owned by two 
multinational corporations. Everyone was singing 
from the same song sheet, so to speak.

The day before I was due to have another bail 
hearing, after now nearly a month in jail, I had 
a long conversation with my lawyer. We discussed 
his strategy going into the hearing and the 
possible Crown arguments. At the end of that 
conversation, he said, 'Oh, there was something 
else I was meaning to tell you, that's right, the 
Solicitor-General is about to announce his 
decision. Valerie, they are going to lay the terrorism charges against you.'

I hung up the phone and I found Emily, my 
co-accused and dear friend. I told her that, 'we 
must prepare ourselves for this because it is 
going to happen'. I was manic, frantic, deeply 
disturbed and shaken. We sat for a little while 
before I went to my cell and tuned in National 
Radio. The four o'clock news immediately went to 
a live broadcast of the Solicitor-General's press 
conference. I sat on my bed rigid with fear. He 
announced, 'I cannot authorize the laying of 
charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.' I 
ran out of my cell, screaming and running around 
the prison wing, 'they're not going to do it; 
they're not going to do it.' I yelled up to Emily 
who had retreated to her cell. I could hardly get the words out.

Her immediate response, 'for all of us?' and I 
thought, 'oh no, I don't know.' In my excitement 
I hadn't listened to his whole speech. I ran back 
to my cell where she joined me.

We tuned back in to hear him say that there was 
'insufficient evidence' that none of us would be 
charged, and that the terrorism law was 'complex, 
incoherent and unworkable'. I was ecstatic. 
Moments later I got a call from the lawyer saying 
that the Crown was no longer opposing our bail. We would be out tomorrow.

It was surreal. I have never in my life felt the 
kind of joyous relief that I felt that night. I 
couldn't sleep. I couldn't concentrate. I just 
sat there in wonder at the events of the previous month.

On Friday, November 9, we were bailed from the 
High Court in Auckland. We are not free, however. 
Sixteen of us still face charges under the Arms 
Act. We continue to have onerous bail conditions 
including curfews, reporting conditions and 
non-association orders. They are the State's 
tactics for control and punishment.

As I have suggested, the evidence indicates that 
the raids were politically motivated by the 
long-standing fear of indigenous assertions of 
power. In this election year, it suits the Labor 
Government to find 'bad Maori' in order to 
fulfill the old colonial divide and rule 
strategy. They will assimilate those they can 
through propaganda and persuasion; those that 
resist will be brutalized and criminalized as 
they have been for more than a century. Maori 
political activists are under State surveillance because they are Maori.

It comes as little surprise that the United 
Nations has now accepted a complaint from 
indigenous lawyers and will investigate the New 
Zealand Government's conduct over the raids, 
although it is the first time that a complaint by 
a group against a state (rather than vice versa) 
has been investigated. While this is unlikely to 
have any substantive effect either on the 
situation for Maori or on the arrestees, it is 
another blow to the idealized utopia of the South Seas.

In the coming months, the case of the 'Urewera 
16' will be heard in the District Court in 
Auckland. My great hope for this trial and for 
the future of Aotearoa New Zealand is that the 
raids will contribute to disrupting the false 
peace of this colonial state and radicalize 
people to struggle for justice and freedom.

*For more information about the Crown's invasion of Tuhoe lands, please see:

Tuhoe: A history of resistance at 

Other sources for information about the raids:

<http://www.arena.org.nz/terprimr.htm>Back in the 
mists of fear: A Primer On The Allegations Of 
Terrorism Made During The Week 15-19 October, 2007. By Moana Jackson.

Coverage: the Terrorists camps on the East Cape.' Scoop.

Other sources of information about tino rangatiratanga and Maori struggle:
<https://www.aotearoa.M_ori.nz/v2/index.php>Aotearoa Café

<http://www.conscious.M_ori.nz/front.php>Conscious collaborations

<http://tuhoe.net/>Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe

Valerie Morse is a Wellington-based anarchist and 
writer. She spent most of her 36 years in and 
around Tucson Arizona and Washington DC but left 
the US during the Clinton era in disgust. She is 
currently facing three charges under the Arms Act 
for possession of guns, restricted weapons 
(molotov cocktails) and ammunition resulting from 
the October 15, 2007 raids. As a result of her 
life as a so-called 'terrorist', her passports 
have been confiscated and her life as an 
anarcho-tourist rather severely curtailed. She is 
a member of Rebel Press, an anarchist publishing 
collective. Her book, 'Against Freedom: the war 
on terrorism in everyday_New Zealand life' and 
prison 'zine 'Can't hear me scream', are 
available for free download on 

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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