A number of activists have been arrested tonight after attempting to blockade Auckland’s Southwestern Motorway, as part of an ongoing standoff between police and land protectors at Ihumātao. However, a spokesperson for the group coordinating the occupation say they did not know the action was going to take place.
Just after 5pm today a red car towing a green van pulled into the north bound lanes of the Southwestern motorway in Auckland, at the corner of George Bolt Memorial Drive and Ihumātao Rd.
A group of 13 young, predominantly Pākehā protesters with signs supporting the land protectors at Ihumātao filed out of the vehicles and sat across the lanes chanting and blocking traffic with their bodies and the van.
Two men tied themselves to the van while the remaining formed a chain across the busy motorway. Among the irate drivers were another group of Ihumātao supporters attempting to leave the site to pick up children. The protesters made way for them but continued to block the road for other drivers.
Police showed up within minutes, announcing to the group that what they were doing was an arrestable offence. They offered to let the protesters block one lane but not all three.
The protesters that had been sitting on the road moved peacefully to the side of the motorway, but the two men tied to the van remained, forcing police to cut the ties. Both the men were arrested.
Police tried to clear protesters from the road and roadside and made at least two more arrests of those that didn’t comply.
A man who identified himself as a spokesperson for Save Our Unique Landscape, the group leading the occupation on ancestral land at Ihumātao, told The Spinoff the protest action was done with the full cooperation of SOUL but was being enacted by prison abolition group People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) and socialist movement Organise Aotearoa.
He said that SOUL kaiwhakahaere Pania Newton would be at the site of the motorway protest soon.
Organise Aotearoa spokesperson Emmy Rākete told The Spinoff: “Police don’t ordinarily carry out mass arrests in this way. The members of Organise Aotearoa were just blocking a road. The cops rolled up with at least six vehicles to arrest those people.
“They were starting to grab people who were just on the side of the road filming. This really exemplifies the force that is being used by police at Ihumātao.”
She confirmed the action was done with full approval of SOUL. “We had a series of discussions with mana whenua about what we would do out here. We did this because we wanted to show that Ihumātao cannot be constrained by a line of police officers.”
However an official spokesperson for Newton and SOUL later denied knowing about the motorway blockade, saying Newton had made no plans to leave Ihumātao whenua that day.
Many of the protesters returned to Ihumātao where land protectors and police continue to hold their lines on the contested land.