Ask yourself – Sonny Fatu says – how many mass shootings in New Zealand have been committed by gang members? None, he says.
“And how many have been committed by someone of Pākehā origin? Many if we include the terror raids of marae when colonialists stole land and killed women and children, but in more recent times we have Aramoana and now this – the murder of 50 innocent people.”
Fatu is president of the Waikato branch of the Mongrel Mob.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, the Mongrel Mob was criticised for having used sieg heil slogans and swastikas. The Waikato chapter stopped the practice four years ago.
The gang was also criticised for offering to provide security around mosques at services marking the death of 50 Muslims in the Christchurch terror attack. This was a crude PR ploy and gang members would turn in their own guns if they were genuine, one commentator suggested.
But Fatu accuses Pākehā commentators of diverting attention away from the Christchurch mosque killer. The real issue, he says, is racism.
“When a Māori person commits a crime of extraordinary circumstances the Māori community are asked as a collective to front on it and develop ways to make sure their people don’t do it again. The same is asked of our Muslim, Polynesian, any person of colour,” he says.
“When a white person commits a crime it is seen as an individual act of violence and only tars the individual and maybe their family.
“There are a number of our Pākehā people who are sick with racism. They need to come together as a collective and address this and heal this.
“Our brown brothers and sisters shouldn’t have to fix this for them – they, we, have endured enough.”
People with no understanding of Māori and Polynesian culture find it difficult to grasp how they react to tragedy, Fatu says.
“It is a cultural connection that we have to our Muslim brothers and sisters,” he says.
“As my friend [Black Power life member] Dennis O’Reilly stated in a recent interview, it is a fact gangs identify with marginalised communities. What has happened in New Zealand is those faced with various forms of oppression have synergised to form a powerful unity in our community.
“Tikanga Maori, Fa’a Samoa and Islam share various cultural aspects and protocols.”
GUNS, DRUGS AND VIOLENCE
Neither Fatu nor Black Power’s O’Reilly hide from the fact their gangs have guns – some of them illegal. And neither is willing to concede they should turn them in after the Christchurch attack.
“Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No,” Fatu says. “Because of who we are, we can’t guarantee our own safety.”
A report by the Law and Order Select Committee in April 2017 described unlawful firearms possession is an integral aspect of New Zealand’s gang culture. A 2014 police analysis showed 44 per cent of gang members had been charged with firearms offences.
Police said 29 gun licences were given to known gang members in 2016. Six of them were later revoked.
According to O’Reilly, Black Power members use guns to hunt for food to feed their families and to defend themselves. He admits many obtain their guns illegally.
“Most of these firearms that are in the hands of gang members have come through Pākēhā gun owners or they’ve been imported.”
However, he suggests there is a distinction between Black Power families and any criminal element within the gang.
“There may be gangs that are organised criminal groups who have guns for nefarious purposes. We’ve seen this in raids where firearms are recovered. But that’s organised crime.”
The two rival gangs, with a majority of Māori and Pasifika membership have been working together in the past few years as other, criminal organisations move into the country. O’Reilly says the guns are used to protect the drug trade within those new groups.
“They’ve been imported deliberately, as part of methamphetamine shipments, in parts,” O’Reilly says. “These are not Māori criminal networks working here, these are criminal networks.”
Ethnic gangs like the Mongrel Mob and Black Power are involved mainly in gang-on-gang violence, according to Fatu. They also police their own members if they step out of line.
“It’s not in our culture to inflict harm on innocent people like what happened in Christchurch,” Fatu says.
“The attacks between our organisations are gang-on-gang, they do not involve the non-gang members. Although there may be peripheral damage and violence that occasionally spills out into the public eye, it is absolutely and without intention for any harm to be caused to non-gang members.”
STANDING WITH ISLAM
Black Power and Mongrel Mob members gathered at the Wainuiomata marae last weekend. O’Reilly says 50 to 100 men, women and children travelled there from as far away as Kaitaia and Dunedin. They were meeting to discuss the future for the gang community in an effort to distance themselves from public perceptions of criminality.
Asked if turning in their guns was discussed at the hui, O’Reilly says: “Of course not. Why the hell would you be talking about handing back guns when you’re talking about progressing your family and moving from pathology to potential. Where on earth would discussions about guns come up in that?”
The group, wearing their gang patches, decided to visit the Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington on the Saturday.
O’Reilly says he went ahead first to the mosque to check everything was okay for them to visit. He spoke to a lone female police officer who asked him how he would respond if the Muslim community didn’t want them to go in.
He says he replied: “We’re not here to impose ourselves, it’s their place, we understand tikanga, we’ve come to support.”
O’Reilly says the gang members wouldn’t have gone in if the Muslims felt uncomfortable.
“They completely embraced us. The Imam gave a beautiful prayer, we responded with karakia and haka.
“They took us on a tour of the mosque, gave us food, it was just fantastic.
“If the Imam told us they didn’t want to wear patches of course we wouldn’t, not a problem.
“What I saw was relaxed people being highly appreciative of support from an unexpected quarter perhaps.”
Fatu insists the gangs are not seeking public approval from their support for the Muslim community.
“We’re not trying to display change, we don’t care if people think we’re changing or not,” Fatu says.
“We’re doing it because that is what our people want now.”
Source : Stuff NZ
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