A HUGE police presence in Whakatane has dealt with a confrontation between the rival Black Power and Mongrel Mob gangs.
Shots were fired near the corner of Valley and Arawa roads at about 2.20pm and a car chase that followed ended in the suburb of Awatapu. Police later said they had arrested “several people”.
The gang clash was sparked by a Kawerau-based Mongrel Mob chapter transporting the body of deceased Mob member Tahu Kingi to the Whakatane Crematorium.
Black Power, the resident gang in Whakatane, announced it would prevent this.
“We’re gonna save the town from them,” one of the gang members told the Beacon at the Landing Road Bridge entrance to the town, where about 30 members of Black Power and affiliated gangs had congregated to block the road, should Mongrel Mob members try to enter the town that way.
The confrontation was sparked by the altercation outside an Awatapu funeral home on Friday, during which Mongrel Mob members allegedly attacked and, using a vehicle, ran over a Black Power member who happened to pass by.
A man, who did not want his identity revealed, told the Beacon today senior Black Power members advised him the Black Power member’s patch had been stolen in the incident.
Also at the time, the coffin containing Mr Kingi is said to have fallen from the vehicle carrying it on to the road during a collision with another car.
While Friday’s confrontation was not witnessed by many, today’s spectacle was very real to the public of Whakatane.
Police said the funeral procession comprised more than 100 vehicles. It left Kawerau about 1.15pm bound for the crematorium, accompanied by about 15 police officers and armed offender squad members.
Black Power members had abandoned their position at the bridge entrance to Whakatane and relocated to the bottom of Gorge Road, the main route to the crematorium from Whakatane. The funeral cortege travelled to Whakatane via White Pine Bush and Taneatua roads.
Beacon reporter Karla Akuhata said it was “incredibly tense” when the cortege passed through. Black Power members were “mouthing off” at their Mongrel Mob opponents and Mob members responded.
“On a few occasions Mongrel Mob members tried to get out of their cars to engage but police were quick to step in and prevent them,” she said.
There were about 10 armed offender squad members and more than 20 police officers at the roundabout.
Traffic was stopped to give priority to the funeral procession.
Police drafted out cars containing members of the public not associated with the funeral further up the road to speed up the cortege’s progress through the Gorge Road roundabout.
“The cops were amazing,” Ms Akuhata said.
She said police planned to block the entrance to the cemetery once Mongrel Mob members had all arrived to keep the two gangs apart.
There were “hundreds of spectators” at the Gorge Road roundabout to watch the action, she said.
After the funeral goers entered the Hillcrest Cemetery grounds police closed off Ohope Road and when people began leaving the cemetery they were prevented from travelling toward Whakatane and forced to travel toward Ohope, where cars were stopped and searched.
A member of the public said she watched as police forced several Mongrel Mob members on to the ground and arrested them in the forecourt of the beach suburb’s petrol station.