Ardern Says Ge­orge Floyd Sit­u­a­tion in U.S. ‘Hor­ri­fy­ing’ Af­ter Ki­wis Joined Protests

Fiji Sun - - AUST/NZ/PACIFIC NEWS -

New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern says the sit­u­a­tion around Ge­orge Floyd’s death, who was killed by Po­lice in the U.S., is “hor­ri­fy­ing”. On Mon­day, thou­sands gath­ered across the coun­try in sol­i­dar­ity with those in the U.S. who have been protest­ing since last week over the death of Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white of­fi­cer who was kneel­ing on his neck. Ms Ardern told Morn­ing Re­port that since the March 15 Christchur­ch mosque at­tacks, New Zealand has had its own con­ver­sa­tions on racism, ex­trem­ism and vi­o­lence. “That’s some­thing that I imag­ine as a coun­try we will con­tinue, and that’s some­thing that’s im­por­tant to us as a nation that we don’t shy away from those de­bates and those dis­cus­sions.

“No-one in New Zealand will claim per­fec­tion here, no-one. I un­der­stand the sense of ur­gency peo­ple felt in re­sponse to what they see.”

The protest or­gan­is­ers in their Face­book event list­ing said they also in­tended to draw at­ten­tion to “the mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the New Zealand Po­lice”.

The Po­lice Armed Re­sponse Teams (ART) tri­als be­gan last year in Auck­land, Waikato and Can­ter­bury, but se­ri­ous ques­tions have raised about is­sues with the tri­als, and a lack of con­sul­ta­tion be­fore their launch.

They have been crit­i­cised by Maori lead­ers, who say in­sti­tu­tional racism af­fects polic­ing, and the mix is a se­ri­ous risk when po­lice are reg­u­larly armed.

The tri­als fin­ished in April, but crit­ics are con­cerned they could be­come per­ma­nent. Since the death of Ge­orge Floyd the hash­tag #Arms­DownNZ has trended on Twit­ter in New Zealand.

Ardern said the gov­ern­ment did raise con­cerns with the Com­mis­sioner

of Po­lice about the ART tri­als at the time.

“They were op­er­a­tional de­ci­sions so not some­thing we were con­sulted on be­fore those tri­als be­gan, but we did raise con­cerns.”

Ms Ardern said it was im­por­tant not to in­ter­fere with Po­lice op­er­a­tional mat­ters, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment did not con­sider the gen­eral arm­ing of po­lice a mat­ter they could not take a view on.

“I’ve al­ways had a very firm view on the gen­eral arm­ing of Po­lice,

I’m to­tally op­posed, al­ways will be. The Po­lice Com­mis­sioner him­self has also said he shares that view.”

In a state­ment, Po­lice said the Com­mis­sioner was com­mit­ted to keep­ing “a gen­er­ally un­armed ser­vice”, and the ARTs did not fire any shots dur­ing the six-month trial.

Ms Ardern said she ex­pected the com­mis­sioner to be tak­ing on­board all the feed­back from gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and MPs in the eval­u­a­tion of the ART trial.

Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP

Protesters demon­strate against the killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Auck­land, New Zealand, on June 1.

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