Lewis Stanton says he hasn’t decided if he will go back to sleeping outside the council building after a chemical attack left him hospitalised last Wednesday morning – but he says the attack has made him stronger.
Lewis, also known as Hone Ma Heke, was admitted to Nelson Hospital last Wednesday with solvent burns to his mouth and throat, after the attack at around 6.45 in the morning.
He has been sleeping outside the council’s Trafalgar St offices as part of a protest since his belongings were seized from outside the Nelson District Court on June 13.
Lewis says he was woken by the attacker after feeling something wet drop onto his head. He did not know the attacker, who ran off when Lewis woke up.
“It certainly woke me up. There was just the one of them and he didn’t say anything. He poured something into my mouth and then ran off.
“All I felt was a drop on my head and I knew it wasn’t rain because I was sheltered, and I opened my eyes and there he was scarpering. And then when I put legs out of bed I was breathing in fumes,” he says.
Lewis says he has been given temporary accommodation for a week following his release from hospital, and although he is back outside the Farmers building during the day, he is yet to make a decision on where he will sleep at night.
“I do have somebody who has been generous enough to pay for somewhere for me to have a safe place for a week,” he says.
“At the end of the day, a week is only a week and I shouldn’t have to be [taken in], just in the same way that I shouldn’t have to be out here doing what I’m doing.”
Lewis is no stranger to attacks. He says he encounters verbal abuse daily and has previously had a Molotov cocktail thrown at him, been burned with lighters and had a business owner try and reverse a car over him.
Messages of support have come to Lewis both from people on the street passing by and comments online.
“It’s good to hear from people online that have stated [even though they] can’t stand me, what happened should never have happened,” he says.
“It’s good to hear people like that coming out and saying it.”
He says the attack has made him even stronger.
“It has made me scared for a bit but it has also strengthened me. There’s a meaning for me being out here doing it, even if it is to show the rest of society that their is something more valuable than their money and their religions. The truth is the greatest religion there can ever be.”
Lewis did not want to comment in depth about the man who attacked him but says it was “brilliant” police had arrested a man in connection with the assault.