People Against Prisons Aoteroa organised ‘Rally to End Armed Police Patrols‘ on Saturday 2nd November 2019. Church in Progress were asked to be there and to speak. Below is what we shared… (Here’s the petition you can sign to support the work to end armed police patrols in Aoteroa – https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/police-put-your-guns-away)
Kia ora e hoa ma, I’m Rev Emily Worman and I’m here with representatives from Church in Progress. My husband Alan, Adrienne and Nicola. Everything is better in a team! We need to work together if we are going to stop armed police from roaming around in our hood.
We are proud to be part of a church which is inclusive and affirming of the Rainbow Community based in Māngere East.
Many of you know I grew up in Māngere East and I’ve had some time away – but I’ve been back for ten years now and I’m back for good I reckon.
As a kid I heard stories about how the police treated others unfairly, at times, in my community – but this wasn’t my experience. My family was well respected in the community and when we called the police for help – the police showed up. They were kind and helpful. They made me feel safe. As I got older, luckily, I never got into trouble – the police weren’t really part of my life.
This is the experience for lots of New Zealanders. They will not understand why we are even at this rally. We need to find ways of having meaningful conversations with those who do not understand our fears.
I’m embarrassed to admit it was only after my negative experience with the police that I started to listen more deeply to other people’s hurtful interactions with the police.
A few years ago, myself and my husband Alan, were with many of you. We were in Wellington sitting outside the Defence Industry Forum Conference. It was our intention to peacefully disrupt this event as we knew that at this conference, weapons were traded and wars were viewed as a way to make profit.
So, I sat down on the pavement with my friends, we linked arms and blocked the entrance. I sat there cloaked in my white privilege and I even had my collar on. However, that didn’t stop the police from kicking me and pushing me around.
My world-view was shattered. That day – the police weren’t there to protect me at all. They were there to ensure that a profit-making war conference went ahead as scheduled. This little white girl had a wake up call.
Since then I’ve tried to listen better and to respond to those caught up in the ‘justice’ system with more compassion.
I pay attention to stories in the media in a different way now. When I hear about bullying in the police force – I think is a bully going to have access to a loaded weapon? Or maybe a hurting victim will be pressured to use a weapon in their police work?
My heart breaks for Kenneth McCaul’s family. Kenneth was an innocent bystander when the police made the wrong decision and a car chase went wrong. Now Kenneth is dead and his husband is grieving his partner of 40 years.
My stomach lurches when I hear a cop causally talk about how, in Māngere and Ōtāhuhu, that policing is still a bit ‘rednecky’ – yup you heard right – ‘rednecky’.
I have a massive appreciation for the PAPA organisers. They continually educate me and give me opportunities to serve along the way.
In the words of Rabbi Johan Rayner
“It is not enough simply to pray for peace – we have to work for it – to denounce injustice, not just when it is committed against us, but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only our but also theirs.”
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. But I didn’t want to speak just for myself. Because as you can see I’m white, pakeha, palangi. What can I say? The chances are, that I’m not the one who will be shot if these new armed police hit the streets. The colour of my skin will probably protect me.
I’m the one that gets waved through a police stop when they are breath testing or checking drivers licences. I don’t get randomly stopped in my car by the police.
Police do not see me as a threat on the street. I’m not a brown teenager in a hoodie.
So, I went to facebook and I asked my community of friends and neighbours what they thought about armed police patrolling our hood. Adrienne and Alan are going to read out what they said in response …
Grace : Why are trials not happening in Remuera? This from a govt who said wanted a more caring society & policies are around wellbeing. Whose wellbeing is this looking after certainly not the people of our communities. Most of the shootings this year are gang/drug related. I’m more scared of police reactions & accidental shootings. It’s the same dread for our children I do when visiting the states.
Adrienne : It concerns me that authorities want joe public to think in order to save lives our police must be prepared to take lives, because the reality is NZs history of disarming conflict is poor. It feels like introducing guns will simply add to the car chases, the mental health patients, the bystanders that are already regarded as collateral damage. It feels like we are about to open the floodgates on something much bigger.
We are still healing from the effects of hate dressed up as white supremacy in Christchurch, it is astounding how quickly we’ve moved from a weapons amnesty to the need for this rally.
And as the mother of a Polynesian boy it scares me that one day I may need to school him in ways to safeguard his behaviour so as not to be perceived as being something he is not.
I am scared of what comes next.
Natalie: My fear is that the New Zealand police will become more and more like the police in America where so many innocent people are killed “accidentally” by the police time after time.
Carmel : Armed police patrolling my hood? Nope. Not us.
Jo : More guns will make people feel less safe and less trusting of Police.
Naomi : After hearing about all the shootings of unarmed, innocent people in the USA (a hugely disproportionate number of whom are black) it baffles me that anyone thinks armed patrols are in our best interests.
Maia : It’s scaremongering – it’s the opposite of what the police should be doing. The neighbourhood teams need to be seen having positive interactions with our communities and be approachable. NZ should learn from other countries mistakes. Not keep on copying them!
Tawera : Police are there to serve not to shoot. I’m struggling to reconcile seeing armed police and meant to be feeling safe around them. I don’t want my kids normalising this.
Annette : No fan of gangs, the scape goating and fear mongering the government has been doing around them though, They are trying to convince us, that armed police, are good for us.
Jonathan : This does nothing but further mistrust in police by communities that already mistrust police. Arming police does nothing to further conversations around (ironically) safer communities together. Furthermore, it feels like a contradiction to the tightening of restrictions that are intended by the Firearms Law Reform that is currently in process.
Thoughts from Hamilton …
Tonga : Just last Friday I drove passed a squad with guns in Huntly west. Even though I knew this was happening, it was still extremely shocking to actually witness. We’ve had armed defender squads in Huntly plenty of times, and I hope that their presence was ‘justified’… But seeing our typical neighbourhood police with the same gear was actually terrifying. I know I’m picking at details of ‘law enforcement’ but thats my experience and I can tell you that seeing police with guns had my entire bus of passengers rattled.
Hamish : Hamilton, has a vaguely worded bylaw in which anyone “aggressively” begging or sleeping can be fined $20,000. In practice this means city council security guards roam the streets and call the police on people using public space. In my street this means constant harassment of people with mental health issues. If the police were routinely armed I expect innocent people will be killed on my street.
Thinking about Ihumātao …
Kate : Most people can say as long as you’re not doing anything illegal you don’t have to worry, But what happens when the police arrive in force to evict your peaceful neighbour and when you go to question why that is happening, you get in the way.
Mandy : If the NZ police become armed by default, Ihumātao would have become Hong Kong instead. Imagine the shift in power and the change of attitude of law enforcement that comes with arming police…
Aram : For those of us who aren’t racially targeted by the police we need to throw our full support against armed police and not be so passive and be proactive to generate robust healthy discussions why armed police does not benefit any of our communities and the damaging effects it will create.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to share with you today.
I’ll end with a blessing … something we can step into …
Let us dare to dream of a safe city
A place where we can walk everywhere, even when it’s dark
Poverty has no place here, we are all fed and educated
The police are only armed with smiles
It’s easy to see God in each person we meet.
So be it.
If you haven’t signed the petition already – please do so now. We need to work together to stop armed police patrols. If we don’t push back – they could be on your street in as little as five months!
Want to know more?
From the Spinoff – Armed Police Patrols are a dangerous response to a non existent problem
From Stuff.co.nz – Strong opposition to planned armed police units
Photo credit : Henry Laws (thank you)