Oct 12, 2012

In praise of Hone Harawira

In a democratic society, the right to protest is a fundamental freedom. When we restrict or demonise civil resistance, we’re doing our democracy a disservice. 

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gibson

News broke last night that Glen Innes Police moved to arrest Hone Harawira, MP and leader of the Mana Party. A number of other protestors were arrested as well. According to John Minto, the Mana Party spokesperson, Hone parked his car behind a removal truck and refused to move. The Police wanted to tow the car, but they had to remove Hone first. The Police smashed “at least one window” and arrested Hone for “failure to remove a vehicle”. 

Judging from the reaction from some on the right, you’d have thought Hone rammed a cop. Well, he didn’t. He was exercising his right to protest. A right that we as a society should not demonise or take for granted. The Bill of Rights Act 1990 provides the “freedom of peaceful assembly” and a “freedom of expression”. The right to protests is, in my opinion, a manifestation of the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression.

Having said that, there is no right to break the law and break the law is what Hone did, apparently. Well, that’s not for you, I or the Police to decide. In any event, Hone clearly lacked criminal intent. And isn't minor and technical law breaking an accepted aspect of civil resistance? From the civil rights movement in the US to Bastion Point in NZ.

Hone is known for pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in a democratic society. After all, he comes from a proud activist tradition. I think there is something noble and uniquely New Zealand in an elected MP opting to risk arrest for the rights of the powerless. In his own words, Hone says:

I didn't go there to get arrested. I went there to show solidarity and support… I went with my wife. To show her the commitment of the families of GI.

These are families who have been there since just after the Second World War, and they are being pushed out of their house.

Good on ya, Hone.


  1. Hone is becoming the Bernadette Devlin of Aotearoa! It's good to see an MP who is really with the people!

  2. I'm not a scholar of law, but I thought the generally accepted caveat to the Bill of Rights was that it does not trump other laws.

    You say it's not for the police to decide whether or not he has broken the law, but surely it is for them to decide whether or not there is good cause to believe has has, and arrest/charge him accordingly [although, apparently they changed the charge once they got back to the station].

    It's not an invasion of your human rights to be arrested when you're protesting in a manner which is contradictory to the law. The police had a job to do, they did it. Hone got to make his stand, and he's all over the headlines today - so it's a win-win as far as I can tell.

    1. I'm not saying it does. I'm saying that there are rights that can be exercised under the Act and that was what Hone was doing. It is for the Court to decide whether a law has been broken. I suspect the charges will eventually be dropped. I doubt the Police will want to draw unnecessary attention to what's happening. You're right, though, on this being a win-win for Hone.

  3. Hone Harawira has become the voice of the poor in this country and the instigator of huge social change - tobacco reforms, feeding low decile kids breakfasts and lunches, pushing a tax for the rich and now the poor being evicted from their homes. He's achieved more than most MP's could ever hope to achieve - and he's never been in a position of "power"! Smart politics and I hope Mana gains more votes in the next election!

  4. How many politicians are willing to get arrested for a cause they believe in? Enough said!

  5. Go Hone!!! About bloody time a politician stood up for the little guy! Tautoko

  6. i lived in a state home where the 'redevelopment' is happenin in GI and housing new zezland lied to us and our whanau and havin lived there for years. My brother and sister now have to go to anova school, miles away. Shot hone

  7. I'm changing my vote to Mana from Labour. I've been waiting for a politician to show some balls.

  8. Sick and tired of HNZ saying people from GI supported being moved.load of bullshit.we were told to move or be moved.HNZ are lying.if only there were 100 Hone's to park there cars.

  9. go hard bro-shove it up hnz and the nats

  10. It doesn’t seem fair Hone gets arrested to sticking up for the little people but John key is far too important to attend the funeral of 2 soldiers who are beneath him. Not attending the Funerals of 2 soldiers you sent into combat is a worse than sitting in a parked car.



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