Workers Party member assaulted by Labour Party member at conference protest

Around 100 to 150 people demonstrated outside the Labour Party conference on Saturday 3 November [2007]. It was a loud and angry protest but mostly peaceful. Demonstrators focused their anger on the police raids, the trumped-up charges against activists and Labour’s anti-democratic “terror” laws.

Inside the conference were Labour’s middle-class and elderly members, and a number of union officials. At one point Jill Ovens, northern secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union came out of the conference, and told the demonstrators that she was on the same side as them. She got booed and loads of people shouted out things like “what are you doing in the Labour Party then?” She stormed off but her partner, Len Richards, came out to remonstrate and yelled to the crowd that they’d never effected change, they’d “destroyed the left”. When Workers Party member Jared Phillips reached for the megaphone to reply, Richards whacked Phillips across the face with force. His blow also hit protester Bronwyn Summers. Richards then threw the megaphone on the ground and walked off while the police arrested a protester who tried to intervene. The guy was dragged away and taken to a police van where he was cuffed and searched. Richard’s assault was seen by police who were by his side, but he walked scott free.

This quite graphically demonstrates the role Labour-aligned union bureaucrats play with regards to radical mobilisations. Later Richards vehemently denied hitting anyone, but when shown video footage offered an apology.

Summers has said she will lay assault charges.

At the very end of the demonstration, when numbers had dwindled, a group of Maori performed a haka in front of the police line, and one guy inadvertently spat at an officer during the haka and was arrested.

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