Labour’s candidate for Taranaki-King Country has confirmed she was assaulted following an election debate at the Inglewood Rotary Club earlier this week.
And Te Pāti Māori has revealed a home invasion and threatening letter to its Hauraki Waikato candidate, Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke.
The two incidents were disclosed within hours of each other on Friday as tensions over race issues and political aggression rose.
Angela Roberts explained in a Facebook post that after the debate “we finished up with a cuppa and chat with members of the audience”.
“The last discussion I had, about education policy amongst other things, was with a tall man who had introduced himself to me earlier in the evening. As he got engaged in our conversation, the aggressive finger pointing started.
“Then things took a turn for the worse. He grabbed my shoulders and shook me in order to emphasise the point he was making. Then he slapped my cheeks with both hands. At this point I walked away and gathered my things and he left.”
Hipkins, who fronted media following a walkabout at Lower Hutt’s Queensgate mall this afternoon, said the incident had been reported to the police.
“I had a brief conversation on the phone with her yesterday. I’m very concerned about what happened to her.”
“It is a reminder that election campaigns should be conducted with respect and with dignity. People are absolutely entitled to express their views. They’re entitled to do that very passionately during an election campaign, that’s what democracy is all about. No one is entitled to physically interfere with another person, and certainly not to assault them.”
He said ahead of the campaign Labour candidates had been told safety was paramount.
“There certainly does appear to be more risk in this election than we’ve seen in recent elections. We’ve been very mindful of that.
“My number one message to all of my team has been if you are concerned about your safety in any situation, don’t put yourself in that situation and if that means not going to a meeting and being criticised for not going because you don’t feel that you’re going to be safe there then I will absolutely defend you doing this.”
Ginny Andersen, who was with Hipkins at Queensgate, said there had been a “fringe element” to this campaign, but she had not personally felt unsafe at any time.
“People do get quite heated sometimes and they’re entitled to do so. I think it’s part of your job as being a local member of parliament and a politician to be able to answer whatever questions people give you.”
“I’ve been really heartened by those community groups that have hosted those meetings to be very clear at the outset about what the ground rules are and I think when that’s done clearly people know to treat each other with respect.”
Police confirmed they are making initial enquiries.
RNZ reports the home of Te Pāti Māori candidate Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke was entered, vandalised, and a threatening letter left behind this week.
The attack was premeditated, targeted and politically motivated, the candidate said.
The party issued a statement saying it was the third incident to take place at Maipi-Clarke’s home this week.
“When our billboards are vandalised, and when our candidates are verbally assaulted, it is not an attack on them as individuals or us as a political party. It is an attack on what we represent: our whakapapa, our culture, and the dreams of our tūpuna and mokopuna,” the party said.
“Hana is our mokopuna, and no mokopuna should ever be treated this way.”
The danger of the campaign trail had increased Maipi-Clarke said, and she blamed that on race baiting and fearmongering from right wing parties.
Speaking during the Hauraki-Waikato candidates’ debate on The Hui, Maipi-Clarke addressed the attackers.
“This is my message: To the people who ram raided my house, who came into my house and threatened me. To the people who came and vandalised my fence – don’t be scared, because the Kōhanga Reo generation are here, and we have a huge movement and a huge wave of us coming through,” she said.
“I am not scared… I am here to be a light and a māramatanga to us that we belong in these places.”
A spokesperson for Te Pāti Māori said the incident was thought to be the first time a politician’s home had been attacked in this way.