FIVE people, including former Green MP Sue Bradford, have been arrested after chaining themselves to a pillar at the Auckland regional office of the Ministry of Social Development.
All were charged with wilful trespass after police had to cut them free, and will appear in court on Friday, with one of the protesters also facing a trespass charge after attempting to break break into the office.
Ms Bradford, a veteran protester and now a doctoral student, said the protest would be the first of many against the Government’s second welfare reform bill, being pushed by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.
It reduces benefit categories from seven to three, and introduces a new “one-strike rule” that would cancel a person’s benefit for 13 weeks if they turn down a single job offer.
“I feel so strongly that we have to lift the level of resistance to what the Government is doing to beneficiaries,” she told APNZ after being freed on bail.
“Just in the last 24 hours I have heard so many stories from beneficiaries who are just overwhelmed by the next onslaught.
“It’s very hard for a lot of people to take action. That’s why it’s important that activist groups like ours can put ourselves on the line in whatever way we can.”
Ministry of Social Development Auckland Regional Commissioner Isabel Evans said she supported the right to peaceful protest.
However her office called police when they began to worry about the safety of staff.
“What I can’t condone is when protesters disrupt our ability to do our job,” she said.
“I understand that future protests have been planned and I would encourage any protester to use their common sense, especially when it comes to the safety of our clients or the general public.”