Operation 8: Deep in the Forest
Directed by Errol Wright & Abi King-Jones
Operation 8 is an emotive, shocking, disturbing, informative and captivating documentary on the 2007 “anti-terror” raids that took place across in New Zealand targetting Maori activists. The film is essential viewing for indigenous peoples fighting for sovereignty, their supporters and activists in general.
In bringing to light instances of extensive, traumatising and invasive surveillance and intimidation tactics by members of the NZ police during the 2007 raids, Operation 8 asks some important questions: Who were the real terrorists?
Was it police commissioner Howard Broad, who was responsible for the introduction of Tasers, the raids, and other dangerous and unnecessary actions during his term? Or the gun toting and heavily armed police under his command?
If such an operation could be carried out in New Zealand, with peace activists labeled terrorists and charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002 with minimal substantiating evidence on which to base them, the question has to be asked, could this happen elsewhere? Could this happen to us?
The whole operation was designed to paint peaceful protesters in the worst possible light and intimidate them. It was intended as a deterrent to civil and political dissent.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable parts of the documentary was the interview with a brave and honorable former NZ police officer who spoke out.
The officer admitted to corruption and planting evidence. He described the cultivation of an environment of lies that became the norm in undercover programs. This has not changed to this day and is designed to produce results desirable to the prosecution's agenda.
Agents involved in such operations often get promoted into high-ranking positions within the force and associated police intelligence agencies.
The documentary begins with a dialogue depicting how families were dragged out onto the road in the middle of the night. In one instance, 12-year-old Patricia Lambert and her mother had guns pointed at their heads. They were hungry and scared, denied food, water and access to legal advice, accused of belonging to terrorist groups and threatened with being sent to Guantanamo Bay prison.
From there, the saga gets worse as those involved tell their stories of the legal and ethical boundaries crossed by police.
Copies of the DVD are available for $35 from cutcutcut.com. You can also read more about the events in the book The Day the Raids Came, edited by Valerie Morse and published by Rebel Press. It can be read online at RebelPress.org.nz or bought for NZ$18 (about A$14).
The book features interviews with people affected by those raids and the aftermath: defendants, friends, family, supporters and other people subject to the state's coercive powers on that day.
The people arrested continue to face a long journey to freedom as the state seeks to punish political activists and to reinforce the status quo.
In May, two people charged in the raids, Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were sentenced to concurrent terms of two-and-a-half years in prison by Justice Rodney Hansen.
They applied for a discharge without conviction, but this was refused on the grounds that the judge found no problems with how police acted in the case.
The two remain the only ones sentenced of the 17 arrested as a result of the raids. Should you wish to send letters of support to Iti and Kemara, the address can be provided by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .