5 Nov 2017

29 arrests in South Auckland after Samoa - Tonga game

1:44 pm on 5 November 2017

Twenty-nine people were arrested in South Auckland last night as rugby fans celebrated after the rugby league game between Samoa and Tonga.

Police speaking to a Samoa supporter in Ōtara.

Police speaking to a Samoa supporter in Ōtara. Photo: RNZ

A police spokesperson said the arrests were for disorderly behaviour.

Police said the problems happened in the Otahuhu township between 10pm and 2am.

They said there were some major traffic issues with Tongan supporters celebrating in the streets in cars and on foot.

It was the third night in a row where there were several arrests as supporters of the two teams gathered in South Auckland.

The police were confiscating flags and flag poles and blocked off some streets.

Counties Manukau Senior Sergeant Ian Brenchley said a couple of hundred cars congregated in the centre of Otahuhu from 10pm last night until 2am this morning.

He said although there were a lot of people, the 29 arrests weren't for any serious misconduct.

"They were mostly Tongan rugby league supporters, they caused quite a bit of traffic congestion, there was no serious disorder but obviously spirits were quite high, just general disorder, people getting a little bit excited, no property damage and no assaults that I've been made aware of."

Auckland's Manukau Ward city councillor Efeso Collins said the fighting between Tongan and Samoan rugby league fans was mostly young people who had taken their excitement too far.

Mr Collins said their actions were disappointing and did not represent the wider Tongan and Samoan community.

"In the end they've just spoiled it for the vast majority of Tongan and Samoan families who just wanted to express their enthusiasm and excitement at the game.

"I think these are some isolated cases of some young people who are probably just trying to manage their excitement."

He said tensions on social media and boredom had likely contributed to the events.

"Silly things happen on social media and people get really upset and insulted and before you know it people get out of hand."

Mr Collins said it was disappointing the incidents mostly involved young people.

But he said there were bigger issues about what caused the events that needed to be addressed.

"If we sit back and actually step back and say there are some major issues being faced by these communities and discuss them in a really mature way, then I think you move away from the kind of sensationalist type of reporting and come into a genuine discussion about how we are going to support these communities."

Meanwhile, in a show of non-violence, the Tongan and Samoan players embraced and prayed together on the field before the match last night in Hamilton.

Police said there was a great atmosphere at the ground and there were few incidents of concern.

They said there were four arrests; three for running on to the field and one for intoxication.

Last week, there was violence between Tongan and Samoan supporters ahead of the match.

Three people were arrested in Ōtara town centre on Friday night, where about 400 people gathered, and there were another three arrests in Mangere, where 250 people congregated.

On Thursday evening hundreds of people gathered at the Ōtara town centre and there were 12 arrests for brawling.

Māori wardens say big sports events a safety worry for communities

The Māori Wardens in Ōtara say the behaviour of Samoan and Tongan league fans leaves them fearful for the safety of their community, despite no-one being harmed last night.

Extra police and Māori and Pacific wardens patrolled parts of south Auckland for last night's World Cup game after clashes between rival supporters in the days leading up to the match.

Mereana Peka of the Ōtara Māori Wardens said the loud parading in cars with flags flying was a worrying trend.

"Is this the model that we've got ahead of us for sports, and if it is how do we ensure that the safety of our community is looked after when there are big games ahead of us?"

Ms Peka said big sports events nowadays seem more of a challenge between different ethnic groups, and less about the sporting contest.

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