Six people have been arrested in a New Zealand a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the Port of Auckland, police say.
Dozens of people blocked the entry and exit into the port yesterday and one of the protesters said several were pepper-sprayed by the police.
The group were calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and want a boycott of shipments to and from Israel.
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Inspector David Christoffersen said initially pro-Palestinian supporters were protesting lawfully. However, they decided to block the roadway, entrance and exit to the port.
“The group was warned they were obstructing the roadway and port operations and asked to move, however, they refused to do so.
“Six arrests were made, five for obstruction and one for disorderly behaviour,” Christoffersen said.
He said OC spray “was deployed on one occasion” and one officer was assaulted, suffering a split lip but not requiring medical attention.
‘Excessive force’ accusation
Some of the protesters have accused police of using excessive force to break up the demonstration.
Videos sent to RNZ show a man with raised arms tackled to the ground by an officer, while another shows police pushing back the protesters. Others said officers used headlocks and chokeholds, and one woman said a chunk of her hair was yanked out.
Protester Lillian Murray said about 40 officers were there. One protester, an elderly Muslim woman, was yanked up off the ground and shoved very excessively for any force that she could ever offer back”, Murray said.
“All of a sudden I feel a small but significant tuft of my own hair being yanked from the back of my head, and my leather bag with metal bindings was yanked backwards so hard that the bindings broke and the bag broke off my back.”
Police said the protesters were warned they were obstructing the port operations, but refused to move.
Murray said despite police warnings to move, she believed the protest was for the greater good.
“There’s perhaps the law and then there’s what’s well relationally, we’re small enough in Aotearoa for there to be a different track cut between police and protesters, a different way of being.
‘Reminiscent of Springbok tour protests’
“What I saw today was reminiscent on a smaller scale of videos that I’ve seen from the police brutality during the Springbok tour protests.”
The protest lasted for four hours, ending at 6pm.
Protesters were also asking workers to go on strike as a show of support for Palestinians.
Some port workers tooted their horns in support of the protesters. Others watched while the protesters tried to enlist their support.
A truck driver waiting in the carpark said he had been held up for three hours while trying to bring his truck into the port. He said many other trucks had also had their movements held up.
Christofferson said police had given the protesters some advice on holding their demonstration legally at a nearby site, however, this was ignored.
“This behaviour is unacceptable as it disrupts the operations of a busy workplace and puts those in the area at risk.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.