Dairies and shops around New Zealand closed their doors for several hours this afternoon, uniting in a nationwide protest following the fatal stabbing of dairy worker Janak Patel in Auckland's Sandringham last Wednesday night.
Organiser Sunny Kaushal said the protest was intended to be "a mark of respect to dairy and retail workers killed, injured or robbed serving their community".
A crowd of about 300 people gathered outside Jacinda Ardern’s electorate office in Mt Albert chanting "we want justice".
The crowd was so large it spilled onto New North Rd. Police told 1News they didn't have any concerns but monitored the situation.
Manhar Patel, who has owned a dairy in East Auckland for 32 years, said he hopes there will be tougher consequences for retail crime offenders.
"They need to get more than a slap on the hand and an ankle bracelet," he said.
"They need to change the law."
His dairy was ram-raided in March. CCTV footage seen by 1News shows a man on a motorbike smashing the front door before making off with cigarettes and vapes.
He said insurance covered the damage and although police attended, there was no offer of help to access the Retail Crime Prevention Programme. Manhar put up bollards across the two shops he owns himself.
His family comes from India – not far from the village where the owners of the Rose Cottage Superette lived before coming to New Zealand, he said.
Hearing about Patel's death made him "mad", he said.
Behind his counter is a cricket bat, just in case there's a robbery.
Further up the road, another dairy owner planned to shut up shop today. The husband and wife team said they have spent thousands of dollars making their dairy secure after being ram-raided six years ago.
"We have been here for 12 years and spent at least $20,000 on security cameras, roller doors and bollards," the woman, who along with her husband did not want to be named, said.
"We had to do it for our safety," she said.
No funding from protection programme
They haven't asked for any funding from the Retail Crime Prevention Programme.
"We don't qualify for it," she said.
"We feel like we don't have any support."
The family business closed its doors at 5pm last night as Patel's funeral was underway.
"We wanted to show that we do care. We are all part of the same community," she said.
Kaushal is also the chair of the Dairy and Business Owners Group. He told 1News he hoped there would be good support for the protest.
"People are feeling this is such a serious matter which has touched every hard-working Kiwi.
"The whole community is mourning – emotions are running high and people want answers," he said.
He said last week that he was disappointed with the prime minister's response to Patel's death - adding that Ardern should have responded as she did following the March 15 terrorist attacks in 2019.
"It shouldn't matter the number of lives lost, this happened under her watch," he said.
In May this year, then Police Minister Poto Williams announced $6 million towards protecting small businesses impacted by a spike in ram raids.
She said the money sourced from the Proceeds of Crime Fund would be invested in a crime prevention programme, which includes solutions such as installing bollards or other protection structures.
Ardern told Breakfast today the Government is committed to continued action on burglaries and aggravated robberies.
"We've worked on programmes to try and work with families because if you're a 12- or 13-year-old and you're engaging in that there are other problems, roughly half of those we've managed to reengage in education and training, and we've brought the reoffending rate down," she said
"Ram-raids have started coming down; last I checked, there were about 13 this month."
She also said the Government would continue to help support stores with crime prevention measures like CCTV, bollards and glass screens for counters.
In Wellington, a large crowd also gathered outside Grant Robertson's electorate office chanting "enough is enough" and "we want justice".
One man has been charged with murder over Patel's death. He is also facing an aggravated robbery charge.
Two other men have been charged with robbery.