The far right links of the Trump-style hats
A Christchurch businessman is still selling the Trump-style "Make Ardern Go Away" caps that made headlines after Trade Me temporarily took down the listings, and is using the proceeds to promote far-right Facebook pages. Marc Daalder reports.
Christchurch businessman Mike Allen told Sean Plunket that it was an issue of free speech when his Trade Me account was deactivated in July, ostensibly because of the MAGA ("Make Ardern Go Away") hats he was selling.
"It's political, absolutely, it's been taken down" for that reason, he told the Magic FM host.
A few days later, Trade Me's head of trust and safety, George Hiotakis, said: "When we've gone and reviewed this it's simply been human error". On Monday, Newshub reported that the hats were back for sale.
However, Newshub did not report that the proceeds from the sales go to a network of far-right Facebook pages operated by Allen. He has publicly expressed far-right views on these pages, some of which have been deleted by Facebook for violating company policy.
Allen has repeatedly posted far-right messages on his Facebook pages, including threats of violence. Linking to an article about an acid attack in England, Allen wrote that "if this happens to my daughter I am destroying mosque after mosque till I am taken out".
Subsequent images posted to the since-deleted page show that Facebook deleted this post for violating its community standards. However, Allen told Newsroom that he had written it "after a couple of beers. It was wrong and I deleted it".
In the comments on that post, users joked about the alleged Christchurch shooter. "Let him out for another go," one wrote.
Allen also wrote on a post about Zahra Hussaini, a Muslim woman running for Christchurch City Council, that "Islam is the problem". He told Newsroom that he stands by that comment.
Allen told Newsroom on Tuesday that he was not a white supremacist or a Nazi. "I don't really understand that one. My girlfriend's Thai, my kids are mixed race. If I'm a white supremacist, I'm not a very good one," he said. "I would never call for anything like that."
He said he told someone who commented on the page of his business, Fat eBikes, "My grandfather fought the Nazis in World War Two and I was in the Army and we were training for if Nazism ever came back".
ACT Party leader David Seymour signed one of the hats at a speaking event. The signed cap was later auctioned off for charity.
Seymour denounced Allen in a conversation with Newsroom. "I think it's completely outrageous to make the connection that because you sign a hat saying you want your political opponent to go away that I am in any way associated with people who are terrorists or threatening acts of violence," he said.
"To threaten or incite a crime such as vandalising or destroying a building, especially one that is of significance to people, is a crime in itself. In the strongest possible terms, I denounce that behaviour."
Trade Me's Hiotakis told Newsroom that "we can only judge our members based on their actions on Trade Me".
"These hats and this slogan are legal and they don't breach our Terms and Conditions. We get that not everyone is a fan of the phrase, or its origin used in the Trump campaign, but we don't see any issue with non-offensive political messages," he said.