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New Zealand’s Police must protect right to peaceful protest – Free Speech Union

At the pro-Palestinian protest on Auckland’s Queen Street on Saturday, a peaceful counter-protestor was arrested for silently holding a sign. New Zealand’s Police must not fall into the trap of using “breach of the peace” laws to silence legitimate speech as has become common overseas. We call on the Police Commissioner to stamp out this practice before it becomes commonplace, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

“At Saturday’s protest, criminal defence lawyer Lucy Rogers was arrested for a ‘breach of the peace’ out of fear that her sign, which read “SELECTIVE CONDEMNATION OF GENOCIDE IS EVIL”, would spark a riot. She did not enact or threaten violence, nor were the protestors themselves violent.

“This arrest was unwarranted and unlawful. It is unacceptable that the Police would quash Lucy’s right to free expression and lawful counter-protest rather than protect it from any feared unlawful violence.

“Overseas, ‘breach of the peace’ laws have been frequently used to suppress lawful protests. It would be a tragedy and a huge step backwards for Kiwis’ free expression rights if New Zealand’s Police pick up this habit.

“Police Commissioner Andrew Coster must ensure this behaviour is swiftly stamped out and that the Police affirm their role in protecting peaceful protest and counter-protest, not preventing it themselves.

“The Free Speech Union is writing to the Commissioner and Auckland District Police Commander, and laying a complaint with the IPCA on Lucy’s behalf. We are also exploring legal avenues for redress following Lucy for her unlawful arrest and breach of her right to free expression.”

 

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