Police today launched a widespread operation against political activists.
Early this morning there were simultaneous police raids across the North Island, in Auckland, Wellington, Whakataane, Hamilton and Rautoki.
There was a later raid in Christchurch, targeted at the Save Happy Valley anti-mining protestors. This raid was apparently led by a detective from the Organised Crime Unit in Wellington.
Seventeen people have been arrested so far and some media outlets are reporting that the police are looking for a further sixty people.
The raids were conducted under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Firearms Act.
The police have claimed there are ' arms training camps' in the area around Rautoki. Police allege that a napalm bomb was detonated at one of these camps.
According to one news source, the Prime Minister's office has been closely involved in the so-called anti-terrorist operation with Police Commissioner Howard Broad stating that he had initiated the raids 'in the interests of public safety'.
There appears to be a diverse range of groups targeted including anti-capitalist groups, environmental groups, Maori sovereignty groups and peace groups.
Dr David Small, the man who successfully sued police for illegally searching his home at the time of an APEC Conference in 1996 has labelled police raids of the homes of social activists this morning as draconian and probably illegal. The Canterbury University academic said the police seem to have learnt nothing from Justice Young’s judgment condemning the police for failing to distinguish between political and criminal activity.
Dr Small, who addressed a public meeting in Christchurch last Thursday on state security and surveillance, expressed particular concern about the use of the Terrorism Suppression Act in association with the raids.
“The public has been softened up with the threat of Islamic terrorism to give massive increases in the powers and resources of intelligence and security agencies. But it is now clear that the focus of their attention is really on social activists in New Zealand,” said Dr Small
This is exactly what happened in 1996 when opponents of the SIS Amendment Act were called paranoid for saying it would be used against local groups, and less than two weeks later, the SIS were caught breaking into an activist’s home.
“Democratic societies need free and open debate. And groups engaging in this kind of critical activity need the law to protect their rights to do so. Today’s raids have the opposite effect and are clearly designed to intimidate and silence these voices of dissent,” said Dr Small