George Floyd: Jacinda Ardern cagey on whether she thinks Donald Trump is racist, urges Kiwis to 'look at our own backyard'

The Prime Minister says she won't "make conclusions about other people's character" after being asked whether she believes US President Donald Trump is racist.

Jacinda Ardern faced the question on Tuesday afternoon, during a press conference called to provide details about free trades training, which was announced in last month's Budget.

It follows the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota - an incident that's fuelled racial tensions in the US and led to protests across the country, as well as riots and looting.

President Trump has faced strong criticism for his response, which has involved threats of violence and mobilising the US military to combat protesters - but Ardern says she won't make judgements on his handling of the issue.

"It's not for me to make conclusions about other people's character - particularly of other world leaders. It is my job to make sure that we reflect our values in New Zealand," the Prime Minister said.

"I have a view on the incident which I've already shared."

Earlier on Tuesday, Ardern told TVNZ she "stand[s] with everyone else in being horrified in what we've seen" when asked about George Floyd's death and the ensuing situation.

Thousands attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Auckland on Monday.
Thousands attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Auckland on Monday. Photo credit: Newshub.

However while she supports peaceful protests, she noted that those who attended the Auckland march had flouted the Government's alert level 2 COVID-19 regulations.

On Monday, Auckland Black Lives Matter protest organiser and rapper Mazbou Q called on Ardern to speak up to President Trump.

"This is not just an American issue, it's a humanitarian issue," he told Newshub. "We have a political relationship with the US, and our leaders ought to hold them to account - there's been none of that to date."

Organisers also noted that Aotearoa has racial problems of its own, claiming "the same white supremacy that led to the disproportionate killing of black people in the US by police exists in New Zealand today".

"That white supremacy takes the form of the over-representation of the Māori and Pacific community in prison [and] the socio-economic disparity that is prevalent in those groups," Mazbou Q said on Monday.

He also expressed concern that the permanent implementation of an Armed Response Team trialled by the New Zealand Police would "inevitably result in the disproportionate executions of our Māori and Pacific community members".

Speaking to media on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said it's our duty to "constantly look at our own backyard - and we should never shy away from that".

"Of course you have seen the police going through a journey of addressing a number of issues, including whether or not they have enough diversity within the police force. That is an area where they have been making gains," she said.

"I don't think our New Zealand Police or even indeed New Zealand would ever claim perfection, but they would say they have a job to do.

Mazbou Q on Monday urged Jacinda Ardern to condemn the killing of George Floyd.
Mazbou Q on Monday urged Jacinda Ardern to condemn the killing of George Floyd. Photo credit: Newshub.

"The Armed Response Trials were conducted in Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury. That was a decision made by the police, [but] that did not stop ministers and MPs expressing concerns that they had with those trials.

"They were trials, they've now ceased, and I know the Commissioner is waiting to make a judgement on what happens with their future. We've inputted into that."

Three individuals, all minorities, were shot and killed by police officers during the period of the Armed Response Team trial, although not by the particular trial officers.

However Auckland protest organisers said the fact victims were all Māori or Pasifika "sets an extremely dangerous precedent going forward", and urged the Government to "roll back this project before more are needlessly killed".