Ardern Says George Floyd Situation in U.S. ‘Horrifying’ After Kiwis Joined Protests
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.
Protesters demonstrate against the killing of George Floyd in Auckland, New Zealand, on June 1.