Meanwhile, in New Zealand:

An update on the MAGA-hat-wearing teacher, and the NZ Police think about arming themselves with Bushmaster M4s.

So, I still haven’t heard back from Manukau Christian School about their MAGA-hat-wearing teacher. No opinion, no comment, no spine.

They’re just staying quiet on this one.

I did hear back from an “investigative coordinator” at the Teaching Council, who said: “This has come to the Professional Responsibility Team at the Teaching Council.

Look - it was brief, but at least it was something.

So, stay tuned I guess. The teacher still has his apology up on his Facebook page, which holds very little weight imo, as directly under it sits his original video.

A very cynical part of me wonders if he’s getting exactly what he wanted. The anger poured out against his message (from me, and others) has probably made him a sort of hero to the people who believe what he believes — you know, that Black Lives Matter movement is “toxic” and “dangerous”. He’ll be a hero to the dimwits. New Zealand’s Ben Shapiro. He’ll have a patreon in no time.

There’s been a lot of dimwitted shit going on.

My favourite thing has been watching the reaction of some fragile white gamers after Sony and Microsoft made statements that included:

We denounce systemic racism and violence against the black community.”

Somehow, here in 2020, that statement is controversial.

It goes on and on. Here in New Zealand, the owner and publisher of the National Business Review decided to focus on George Floyd as a “career criminal”, a talking point being promoted by the American alt-right.

What an awful fucking take, and I really think Todd needs to read “Letter to a White Man”.

Meanwhile, I continue to delete and block anyone on my Facebook feed that continues to post “All Lives Matter” - people who continue to push back when others politely point out why that phrase is problematic, and misses the entire point.

And as we’ve been watching the very worst examples of systemic racism being carried out in America — cops killing and smashing and punching and abusing (some of them realising their dreams of being in a fucking computer game) — here in Aotearoa we also have plenty to be ashamed of.

Like America, we always have.

“Arms Down” is a movement here in New Zealand that’s incredibly fucking worried about a trial our police have been carrying out. Their website gets straight to the point:

Last year, Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced that cops would be trialling routine armed patrols in Manukau, Waikato, and Christchurch. For months, SUVs full of semi-automatic weapons were cruising around our neighbourhoods, looking for a fight. Pacific people are three times more likely than Pākehā to be the victims of police violence. Māori are almost eight times more likely. More police with guns in brown neighbourhoods will lead to more police bullets in brown people.

The police say armed police patrols will reduce gun violence. If gangs know the police are armed, they will arm themselves too. These patrols do not make us safer. They make us less safe. The solution to gang violence is social services that meet our needs, not teams of police commandos pointing machine guns at us.

The trial ended up the 26th of April, and will now be evaluated by The Evidence-Based Policing Centre.

It’s not going well, according to Radio NZ: “Police in the Armed Response Teams failed to record their callouts properly on almost every occasion during the trial's first two months.

The “evaluation” will be completed in June, taking into account data (if they can find it lol) collected during the trial, and public feedback.

That feedback has already been incredibly unsupportive:

“87 percent of participants said knowing police were armed in their community made them feel less safe, and 75 percent did not think the police were well placed to respond and help people in mental health crisis or distress. A further 92 percent agreed there was a need to prioritise alternative ways of keeping people safe such as teams of paramedics, trauma and culture-informed health and mental health professionals who were available and on-call.”

According to figures reported by Radio New Zealand, Armed Response Teams were sent out 2,641 times between the October 28 and December 2 in Counties Manukau, Waikato, and Canterbury districts.

“This meant armed police have been attending more jobs in an average week than the Armed Offenders Squads were sent to in an entire year,” RNZ reported.

And as New Zealander’s protested the murder of George Floyd, plenty were thinking about our own problems closer to home. Dylan Asafo wrote eloquently about this over on Newsroom:

In needing to be careful not to co-opt, de-centre and misappropriate the black struggle, for many peoples of colour in Aotearoa this solidarity comes from having a deep understanding of the pain, exhaustion and anger that comes from constantly having your humanity denied by the white supremacist state. It comes from appreciating the life and joy that black culture gives us and the world, too often without any acknowledgement, compensation and any sense of reciprocity in everyday acts of appropriation. It comes from generations of failed promises of a so-called democracy that ensures equality and justice for all, regardless of race, colour, creed, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and disability status.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk to Emmy Rākete from Arms Down, about the situation in Aotearoa. She penned a brilliant piece for The Spinoff last week, called The whakapapa of police violence.

We talked for about 45 minutes - I came away from our call feeling lucky to have spoken to her, her brain approximately 10,000 times quicker than my slug of an intellect. As my questions came out I kept feeling very dumb and very white.

But here’s our conversation.

People are shocked right now with George Floyd’s murder, because I think New Zealand always looks at America. And that’s when I noticed “ArmsDownNZ” trending on twitter. And it’s good to be outraged at what is going on in the US, but we’ve got plenty of our own shit in New Zealand, too. So I wanted to talk about that. Were you surprised when you saw ArmsDown trending a lot last week, or was that something you’d expected?

This obviously isn’t the first time a black man has been murdered by the American police. We’ve been doing stuff around police violence in Aotearoa and around the criminal justice system here for years, and there is always more attention on our work when a high profile police murder happens in the States. 

But this has definitely been the most attention we’ve ever gotten on a campaign we’ve been working on. I think because, for one thing, the response in America has been so swift from the community there, to fight back against police racism. 

But I think also because the overstep by the police here that we are trying to fight back against was so egregious, that I think it has resonance. The killing of George Floyd by American cops helped people notice.

And I suppose also the armed police trial here wound up recently too, right?

Yeah, so the trial was announced in October with no consultation, ran for six months, and the cops killed three people across the country in that six month period. Then they killed another person.

Now none of those killings were committed by Armed Response Teams, but what they show is that this step towards armament gave cops across the country permission to shoot first, and be asked questions later.

And we’re in an evaluation period now, where the cops are doing their self evaluation as to whether this went well or not.

Which is one part of the decision making process that will ultimately decide if these teams stay on the streets or not. So it’s a totally un-transparent process, totally undemocratic. Nobody involved in this can be voted out.

And there is basically no way for ordinary people to get involved. The cops kinda just posted an email address on their website, and that was the extent of work to letting people know that we have some say in this.  

So we have to pick up that email address — and kind of like a crazy old man on a street corner with a bunch of hand written leaflets — shove it in stranger’s faces!

And I just read this morning that they haven’t even been recording the callouts properly over the first two weeks of the trial. It’s so Mickey Mouse. It’s fucking mad!


So, I’ve been beaten and arrested by the cops for being involved in political organising, and they are always like this.

I am not surprised at all to hear these cops weren’t recording five and six incidents where they rolled up on people armed with fucking bushmaster carbines. That’s what the police are like. 

But I think for a lot of New Zealanders, who don’t have any interactions with police, or don’t have these kinds of racialised negative interactions with police, this does come as a surprise.

And that comes with the police’s strategy for this trial. Which was to do whatever they always do, whatever they always wanted to do, and trust that no one would look at it too hard.

Yeah, and I’m one of those people who’s had zero interactions with the police, except for when  I was a reporter in a newsroom maybe talking to their comms people about a story. And so I am one of those people that because I am suddenly paying attention to this horrific footage out of the States, I feel like I am finally going, “holy shit”. Which is what you’ve been saying for a very long time.

Yeah, I’d say that it is qualitatively the same, right? We have a police force set up to ensure the ruling class stays in power, and a society built on the theft of land and the exploitation of labour. 

There is a difference in quantity, I think.

The cops here don’t kill as many people, they don’t harm as many people as they do in America. But that is not because they couldn’t ever do that, it’s because the conditions that allow the mass killing in America don’t exist here in Aotearoa. Yet. And those conditions could come to exist. Which is what we’re fighting back against - which is what this campaign is on.

What has this translated into for you guys? Is money coming in? Is there more media attention? I mean how does it feel from your end? Because you’ve been working at this day and night over a long period of time to get traction, not just suddenly now…

Yeah, there’s been a lot more media attention. One thing, just because the trial is wrapping up, this is when we would be getting media attention anyway. 

For another thing, the public interest in police violence is everywhere in the world right now, and that translates into New Zealand. 

And for a third reason, I think “ArmsDown” was quite an accessible campaign, because there was a neat, bounded set of things you could do to participate in the campaign.

And so lots and lots of people did, and they talked about it, so with a huge public buy in, that’s carried over into people paying attention.

In terms of money, a band is donating all their bandcamp sales to us for a track they did!

We are a community run organisation. I’d love to be some shadow-backed, covert regime change operation, flush with money!

Do you think, as far as racism in New Zealand, is it at a point where it’s just sort of flowing along the same as always, is it dying out at all, or is it worse than ever in this Trump era, where some of his shit is pushing in over here, whether it’s the alt-right ideologies. Um, er, how do you feel things are here right ow?

So we didn’t really used to have organised nazis in this country.

No! We really didn’t!

I first saw some when I visited Australia, and there were — and I have to stress this, pasty motherfuckers — dressed up like Spartan soldiers. And they were trumping around looking like total goons. But we didn’t have organised nazis. 

I mean we had like skinheads, but I think that’s different to an organised nazi movement.

But we totally have organised nazis now!

So yeah, I think Trump has had a huge effect on how the racist right coordinates, and they are trying to build political power, which I am concerned by and I think every normal person is concerned by that.

But even under the skin of that, things can’t exist unless the conditions for those things exist. So you couldn’t have nazis if there wasn’t already a social structure that exists and kind of scaffolds nazism. And they’ve got the foil they need in Aotearoa already. 

We are the country of land-wars, of land theft, of dawn raids, the Urewera — quote unquote, terror raids — a country where brown people make up most of the prison population, the most people who are injured by police, who are shot and killed by police, we’re the poorest people in this country, we’re the most disposable labour population in this country.

Our rights are routinely trampled on even though we have a really, really clear legal document explicitly laying out what our rights are meant to look like with the government. 

And that shit gets thrown straight in the toilet whenever it’s relevant.

So yeah, racism - it would be really comfortable to say there’s a new Trump-era problem, but I don’t think that there is.

I just think they found a way to make Trump shit, nazi, fuckin’ alt-right stuff work in this country because it could work here. 

What do you see as the main thing — and I am sorry these questions are so broad — but you look to America, and that can’t be fixed until it’s kinda burnt to the ground, which feels like you are seeing little elements of that now. But the fear is it’s going to bounce back to what it was. And I am curious how that plays out. But here in New Zealand, these micro-aggressions everywhere — how does that stuff change? Like, does the government need to take clear leadership on that, does each individual get a sort of slap in the face, or is it a case of until you experience it yourself, people that aren’t having these issues with the police, or aren’t experiencing racism basically — we’re just going to just keep forging forward not giving a fuck?

Yeah, it’s such a hard question right — because I have got an answer for you, but it sounds like someone really lazily paraphrasing Karl Marx, which I am sure as a journalist is really fucking boring to get from people! But I have to lazily paraphrase Karl Marx on this, right?

We live in a society that is insolubly contradictory. 

There are irreconcilable problems, which not only don’t go away, but they can’t go away in this kind of society.

Like in Aotearoa now, you need the police. You need the cops. 

If you didn’t have a way to take all this human suffering and misery and pain — and we see the limitations of that pain in crime — but if you couldn’t unleash the cops on that pain, and throw the people who are in pain in prison, we would have to look at why we have this immiserated underclass who have no prospects of improving their life. Who are forced to live in damp, overcrowded  housing in the most polluted parts of our cities. Who are paid less than everyone else and who die young. Whose kids die every winter of pneumatic fever.

We would actually have to answer that question.

And that’s a shit question to have to answer. 

I am not surprised people don’t want to answer that.

But the problem is our society relies on that pain to exist.

New Zealand needs that suffering, because without it we wouldn’t be able to have rich people — and government's that depend on donations from rich people — and the whole system would fall apart. 

So you are right when you talk about America needing to burn to the ground. Now I am not endorsing violence, but the system has to be torn apart.

And it’s already trying to tear itself apart.

And we’re just trying to fiddle with it. We have been fiddling for 40 years in this country with racism! Moana Jackson wrote two books nearly 30 years ago now showing irredeemable, objective racism at every level. And it’s fucking worse now! 

And so it’s not working, and we need to do something qualitatively different. 

How do you keep, um, forging on in this scenario. I feel like you look at something like the Armed Response Teams and that’s a real thing you can get New Zealand on board to fix and respond to. And yet when you look at these giant systemic things, how do you keep your head above water?

The great thing about doing campaign-based work is that you can look at something and go, “that is the problem. We should fix it.” And often that’s not as hard a fix as you’d think.

Armed Response Teams are a problem. You don’t want those guys shooting up brown kids, which is what they’ll do.

But it’s hard to tie that back to, “Why did the police choose to have Armed Response Teams?” There is no increase in firearms crime. There’s no increase in assaults on cops. There is generally no reason for then to decide to do this. So why did it happen? 

Then you get into the core of policing. Why do we have police? To protect property. And to make sure Maori know which ways the guns will be pointing if we try anything again.

And so they are fulfilling their own internal function by doing these kinds of things. And we are never going to fix the problem of Armed Police Patrols until we fix the problem of what police exist to protect, which is the rule of a capitalist class. And I am back to loosely paraphrasing Karl Marx again!

Looking at social media, which is something I am on too much… look, from people changing their icon to a black square — whether that’s a sign of solidarity or a sign of fitting in… look, I don’t know how often you are on social media, but what is your take on the way as to how we are responding to all this. Do you roll your eyes at certain elements or… Oh God, I don’t even know what my question is!

Yes, that was a very vague question, but I am vibing with it because I think I know what you mean.

I think there is a real impulse, especially when you really, really, really care about something — like I really care about criminal justice in Aotearoa, like it’s literally nearly all I do every single day.

And when you really care about something, if there are other people who are showing an interest in it — but you can tell it’s not killing them how much they care about something — then it’s really easy to just go, “you don’t give a shit about this! I care about this so much!”

But we aren’t gonna win by inducing a come-to-god moment, and getting everyone in the world to kind of baptise themselves!

Most people, most of the time, sort of care about a lot of things.

And I think a lot of people sort of care about something, and occasionally really really care about something — can actually be really effective.

Like my work, doing media for this organisation, is to get people to sort of care about something, because occasionally when the moment is just right, when the material things in our society line up in just the right way — a lot of people are going to really really care about something and that is when you tear dynasties down.

I also just think that if I was an organisation in New Zealand, there would be an element in me that would sort of roll my eyes when we get excited — not excited, passionate — because of something that has happened overseas, and be like, “here’s a case in New Zealand of a person of colour getting killed by police, where were you then?!” Do you know what I mean? It would drive me insane.

Yeah, but that is the point. It would drive you insane to feel like that every time everyone didn’t recognise how much it burns. And you’d die if you felt that way every time. And you can’t die!

In your day-to-day life, I feel like a lot of white people...

Please don’t use that word! [retching noises] No, no, you’re okay!

Ha! Like how is it best to confront day-to-day all the stupid throwaway comments you might hear from that one particular uncle… like it’s good to get stuck into them, but I also fear it embeds them more in their bullshit, like even that MAGA heat wearing guy - I worry that me getting stuck into him was bad as he’ll dig deeper. My point is do you have any advice!

Yeah, it’s so hard. I fucking… I hate racists so much.

But it’s like whack-a-mole. Let’s think for a second we have to win whack-a-mole forever, and make sure the mole doesn’t pop out ever again.

To secure a future for brown people, you wouldn't hit the mole. You’d figure out how the machine works, and pull all the guts out of the machine!

Aotearoa the brutal racist settler colony, it is basically a machine designed to produce cheese. 

And someone somewhere with a lot of money, has calculated that it’s worth killing generations of Maori and stealing our land from us, and subjugating this entire population of people into basically living and working until we die, to produce cheese that we can then sell and make money off.

And that is where the material interest in maintaining domination over Maori comes from. 

You come down from the abstract, and all this complex stuff, and it comes down to this system for making cheese.

And we can’t let these really rich people who just want to make cheese rule our lives anymore. And we will never get out from under their thumb if we don’t tear apart their ability to keep selling cheese.

I love that, I mean I hate it. But I love the example.

But for Arms Down, the ball is really in Andrew Coster’s court. He is the one who ultimately has the ability to make the decision. We don’t agree with that ability. We don’t agree he has the right to unilaterally reverse our post land-wars consensus that we have an unarmed police force in this country.

So we are going to see what this guy decides he thinks the case is gonna be. And then keep fighting them on it if they make the wrong call.

And we have the people behind us now. To me, I think it’s unthinkable that Jacinda Ardern would present herself as this moral leader of the free world, and then allow police commando squads to go on patrol in brown communities.

I think if she wants to have any legitimacy as Prime Minister she has to strike this down. 

Yeah, for the right reasons I hope — but also just the optics of the whole thing to be honest.

And I don’t think we can afford not to be cynical. If it saves Maori lives, I will be super cynical and I will fully take the optics!

During the trial, was there a moment that stood out what the problem was? 

It was day one. I was on the bus and I was literally on my way to teach a class about structural racism in New Zealand’s criminal justice system.

And I saw Mike Bush doing a standup, and he was pitching these teens, and I was listening and I realised he was saying we need to have SWAT teams in this country.

And I knew he was not telling the truth when he said why. Because he was saying we have too much firearm crime, our officers are unsafe and being injured at an incredibly high rate, and they are not safe unless we have these armed SWAT teams.

And I had already put an Official Information Act in with the police earlier in the year, asking them for their firearms data, and the police data they gave to me clearly showed firearms crime had been basically stable for the entire reported period of six years!

It has been one per cent of crime for that whole time, assaults on police officers are in the low double digits every year and have not increased for the entire reporting period.

Cops report being injured in the workplace like half the rate of bartenders! The entire evidential basis for what the highest police official was saying as the justification for these armed SWAT teams — I already knew to be completely, completely fictitious

And they did it anyway.

And nobody in the government stopped them from doing it.

The police have stuck a lot of their marketing budget into getting the word out about soliciting community feedback about Armed Response Teams.

Just kidding.

They have this one webpage with zero marketing behind it.

At the bottom of that page, you’ll find an email address.

You can email it with your feedback:

Oh, and Emmy also suggested this book as a great read: Are Prisons Obsolete?, by Angela Davis.

Edit: I’ve disabled comments for this post, as the racists flood in. x