Couple Who Dressed Up To Deliver ‘Menacing’ Cultural Appropriation Flyers Are Fighting To Keep Their Identity Secret

Wanting to “create fear and division”, a Pākehā couple donned fancy dress to deliver “threatening” posters around Nelson under cover of night.

The 65-year-old man and 56-year-old woman, both of Nelson, were convicted on Tuesday of making available false documents in Nelson District Court.

While Judge Jo Rielly lifted the name suppression that had been in place for the couple since they were charged last year, their attorney Michael Vesty told the court he planned to appeal.

While this is pending, the removal of the couple’s name will remain in place, limiting Things ability to report the context of the offence.

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In her summary, Judge Jo Rielly described the offence, which took place on November 10, 2020.

Between 8 and 9:30 p.m. the couple drove into the Nelson CBD in their car. Dressed in wigs and hats, the couple distributed the flyers to galleries, the library, a jeweler and other small businesses, slipping them under doors or taping them to storefronts.

The flyers featured the images of academic Atama Moa and television personality Shane Te Hāmua Wilkins-Nikora, using their English names and identifying their place of work or career.

The text was copied from a Facebook group, of which the men are members, and refers to cultural appropriation. “If you are not Maori (sic) and you use our culture in your business, you will be targeted. We will hunt you down,” the flyer read.

The couple were sentenced in Nelson District Court on Tuesday.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/Stuff

The couple were sentenced in Nelson District Court on Tuesday.

“[The flyers] alarmed and scared people the next morning when they went to work,” Rielly said. “[The recipients] believed the message came from the men depicted; exactly as you planned.

“They felt shocked, threatened, disturbed, confused, in danger, nervous, insulted, offended, anxious and disgusted. Many were afraid of the males and the way they had conveyed themselves in the flyers.

The flyers were meant to “create fear and division,” Rielly said. Twelve recipients reported the flyers to the police.

The men featured in the poster were upset by the use of their images, Rielly said.

“They were unhappy to have been stripped of their cultural identity. They feel their whakapapa has been compromised… They have every right to be upset that you did this, you represented a message that they did not convey.

When the police searched the couple’s workplace and home, the defendant claimed that it did not manufacture or distribute the flyers.

However, police found clothing identical to that seen in the CCTV footage, including a distinctive hat. They also found documents containing printed comments on the flyer and a typed, unsigned statement titled “Confession time.”

In the document, the author explained the reasons for creating the leaflets. “Confession time: I stuck the…posters around Nelson.”

Martin De Ruyter / Stuff

“You were more than happy to put the two men in the limelight and suspect them as the villain,” Judge Rielly told the defendants. (File photo)

However, the following May, the woman admitted responsibility, saying it was her idea. His initial refusal resulted in the distraction of police resources, Rielly said.

The couple had donned disguises for fear of reprisals, they told police. They also said they had “fun” delivering the roughly 18 flyers around Nelson, Rielly said.

Rielly told the couple they lacked remorse and an understanding of the impact on their victims, and continued to attempt to justify their actions.

Wilkins-Nikora’s video victim statement was played in court.

“I’m surprised to be called the victim,” Wilkins-Nikora said. “The way I look at it, if I’m the victim, I should be the one whose name gets deleted.

“I do not understand why [they] were allowed to keep their names hidden when it was my name they used to create this fraud.

Hiding wasn’t his style, Wilkins-Nikora said.

“[The male defendant] hid under a balaclava and delivered these pamphlets threatening to hurt other Pākehā in the dark. This Maori is not a coward, he would never do that.

Moa also expressed a sense of irony over the continued removal of the name.

“The nature of their crime was to slander our names and Maori culture throughout Nelson…but they want their own names removed,” he said via text message.

If the call was overturned, the balance would be restored, Moa said.

“[However]if the judge accepts the appeal, white privilege has shown its ugly face again and Aotearoa’s trajectory of inclusion and equality has slowed.

Crown prosecutor Jeremy Cameron said the impact of the offense on Moa and Wilkins-Nikora had been “high”.

He argued for the lifting of the name deletion, citing the public manner of the offense, the high threshold of “extremely severe” and the public interest in the case.

The couple’s attorney, Michael Vesty, argued for release without conviction and the permanent deletion of the name.

“They have suffered a lot throughout the course of justice. They unfortunately separated, they lost [their business]they have to get up after two years of struggling in this system.

“My clients hope that the court will draw a line that will allow them to go on with their lives in peace. They don’t want an online or face-to-face campaign against them.

Judge Rielly declined to discharge without conviction but imposed no further sentence.

While Rielly was concerned about the impact of releasing the couple’s names, she declined to grant the name’s continued removal, citing freedom of speech and principles of open justice.

She also spoke about the conflict between the couple’s actions and the desire to remain anonymous.

“You were more than happy to put the two men in the limelight and suspect them as the villain.”

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