The Mana Party is standing by its leader, Hone Harawira, after he was convicted yesterday for disobeying police at a protest. The party president says the MP’s «act of civil disobedience» is to be applauded.
Harawira was fined $500 and ordered to pay $132 court costs after being convicted in the Auckland District Court of failing to comply with a police instruction at the housing protest in Glen Innes last October.
Supporting activists fighting the removal of state houses, he locked himself in his car and turned his music up loud, blocking a Housing NZ-contracted truck-and-trailer unit from leaving with one of the homes.
Police told him several times to move but he refused. They eventually smashed a window and arrested him.
Harawira, who represented himself in court, said he did not shift because he was ensuring the safety of three female protesters on the roof of the house being removed.
Last night, he told the Herald he considered the $500 a «bargain» if it meant the stories of the families of Glen Innes were known.
«I was proud to be part of the case and I’m happy to pay the price.»
He praised the judge for allowing the families to tell their stories even though these weren’t directly related to the charge he was facing.
Harawira said he felt it was part of his job to create an environment where people talked about issues that were usually ignored.
The MP will remain in Parliament despite yesterday’s conviction.
Mana president Annette Sykes said the party had «every confidence» in Harawira as leader.
«I think Hone is mirroring a number of our great leaders of the past, many of whom challenged the authority of the state when there was injustice, and were found guilty.»
She compared Harawira to Tuhoe land rights activist Rua Kenana, who was imprisoned for resisting arrest, and Irish political activist Bernadette Devlin, who found herself «at the blunt edge of the law» while promoting the rights of the poor.
«In that tradition … Hone is to be applauded … for his significant efforts to protect the rights of the people of Glen Innes, and the dislocation of those people from homes they have lived in for over 50 years.»
Ms Sykes said the presence of Harawira and Mana Party co-vice-president and Auckland mayoral candidate John Minto at the protest was an «act of civil disobedience».
«It was not [an] isolated act of civil disobedience – it was part of a group of individuals making it very clear that one, the Government policy was wrong; two, that Housing New Zealand had acted contrary to the consultation processes; and three, direct action was required because people were going to be removed and dislocated from their community.»
• Convicted of failing to comply with a police instruction.
• Fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs.
• Won’t have to give up his seat in Parliament because the Electoral Act says an MP must resign if he or she is convicted of an offence with a sentence of two years or more in jail.
• Maximum penalty Harawira faced was a $5000 fine and six months in jail.
additional reporting: David Fisher