Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976
Cleaning up the Streets
Cleaning up the Streets
Case no. 1
At about 8pm on Thursday 16 September, a number of members of Wellington's Black Power Gang entered the Caledonian Hotel in Adelaide Rd.
They were in a jovial mood. Joe Davis, another member of the group, called out to them from the other side of the bar. He had been in there for some hours previous. Someone made a joke about Joe shouting a round, and they all settled down to a quiet evening's entertainment.
Just before nine a policeman and two men in suits came into the bar. They looked as though they were from another world because of the nature of their dress and the general awkwardness of their actions. One of them was an inspector, another was a plain clothes detective, and the third was the Member of Parliament for Wellington Central, Ken Comber.
Everyone in the bar stared. They looked around as if inspecting the behaviour of the bar's patrons. Ken Comber nodded to a group of drinkers, and noted the Black Power insignias worn by the group in the corner.
After a few moments the three men left the bar. They paused outside the door, looking back in and discussing what they had seen. They then moved off to a waiting police car.
About 10 minutes before 10 pm the police arrived back. A group of about ten policemen entered the public bar of the Caledonian. The scene was similar to what it had been previously. There were people (both Maoris and Europeans) occupying most of the tables. The Black Power Group were still remained where they had been previously. There was no skylarking, no tension, it was just a normal Thursday night at the pub.
Most of the policemen lined themselves up along the wall near to where the gang were sitting. The others moved around the bar telling people to leave. Most finished their drinks and moved off. The policemen along the wall stared at the Black Power group, waiting for something to happen. The gang ignored them, although there were chuckles from jokes passed backwards and forwards about the intimidatory nature of several policemen, who would rise up on their toes as if they were itching for a little exercise.
A policeman came up to the group and told them it was lime to leave. "Okay Sir," came the reply, as one of the older members of the group downed his beer and stood up. The others looked at one another, finished their drinks, and headed for the door. The policemen standing up against the wall followed them out.
Outside, the police had double-parked a paddywagon across the path of the Black Power Gang's van. Several members protested, but the police told them to move along. Joe Davis was fooling with another gang member L. when suddenly one of the policemen grabbed him by the arm and hauled him over towards the paddy-wagon. At the same time another hotel patron was also hauled towards the police van.
The police pushed them inside the back door of the van. Because the entrance was so narrow both of them could not fit in a once. So the policeman took out his truncheon and hit him about the head - obviously as a persuasion to move a little faster.
Joe didn't remember much after that. The left side of his face hurt, his eyes were sore, and he felt sick.
At the police station he was processed and charged with resisting arrest, obscene language, and assault on a police constable. He was taken up to the hospital for treatment by a doctor, but there was no doctor available, so it was back down to the cells for the night.
Next day in court there was no comment made on the cuts to his face, or the black eye. The magistrate looked straight ahead, remanding him until later in the month.
Case no. 2
On Saturday 3 July A. and some of his friends were drinking in the Speak Easy bar of the Regent Tavern in Manners Street.
At 10.15 pm A. and a friend J. left the tavern together. They were fairly hungry, so they walked across the road to the Hungry Horse hamburger bar. There was quite a large crowd of people buying themselves food, so J, decided to walk back over to the other side of the road. He ambled out onto the road not noticing the car approaching from his left. The car had to swerve to avoid him. It pulled up about 10 yards in front of him.
A policeman and a plain clothes detective got out of the car and came back to question J. The policeman, a sargent, went up to J. and grabbed d him around the neck. He then hauled him up the street to the police car.
A, who had been waiting for a hamburger at the e Hungry Horse, looked around to find J. being pushed into the unmarked police car. He ran over to the car and asked the detective what was going on. The detective told him to go away. He persisted in his questions. The detective got out of the car, grabbed A. and threw him into the front seat of the car besides another occupant, a police woman.
A. was then beaten around the face by the detective, suffering brusing and a split lip. He was consequently charged with disorderly behaviour, as was J.
These two incidents are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cases of people's civil liberties are ignored, and violence is used in order to assert the authoritarian polistion of the police force. Claims of police brutality in a court room is usually ignored by magistrates, especially as the prosecutor usually makes a joke of it. In A's case, there will be a private prosecution of the police officer for wrongful arrest, the the chances of it succeeding are very Slim.
During the last few years there have been many speeches made by Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners of Police, exhorting the Government to allow them to arm the police because of the increasing violence associated with crime.
But the real violence is when the police arbitrarily tread on people's democratic rights (especially when they are unaware of what precisely those rights are), go to all sorts of lengths to intimidate them, and then arrest them on pathetic charges that are so wide in their definition (like disorderly behaviour) that they cover all situations.
Gangs such as Black Power suffer every day by means of these tactics. The incident outside the Caledonian happened at the Abel Tasman two weeks previous. It was the same group of policemen (referred to by Black Power as the Wellington Task Force) who turned up on that occasion, and they used the same tactics.
One of the gang members (J) was stopped last week in the Cuba Mall. He was with two others C, and L. The detective who stopped them wanted to know what he was doing and where he was working. And then he asked questions about L, about whether he knew anything of his alleged drug taking activities, and whether he would be a witness against him. J. replied that he wouldn't and that he wasn't interested in talking to the detective. The detective kept hassling him until, when it was obvious he wasn't going to co-operate, he was let go.
While this sort of incident is not serious, many gang members are becoming very annoyed. It seems that just because they have a black power insignia on their backs, and they dress a little more roughly from your ordinary clean-cut New Zealanders, that they should be prepared to be intimidated by the police.
If gang violence breaks out in Wellington it won't be because the gangs themselves are using weapons, but because of the frustration existing in gangs like Black Power over the increasing harassment by the Police - the biggest gang of all.