Monday, April 11, 2011

It is not a crime to dislike the police

In this country, we have freedom of speech. Which means that you should be able to express your dislike of those in power, right? Apparently not:

New Zealand singer Tiki Taane is due to appear in Tauranga District Court on Friday after being arrested in the city early Sunday morning.

He was performing at a gig at Illuminati on Harrington Street when police arrested him.

Taane is charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence to start or continue.

A number of people at the gig on the night say Taane began singing 'f*** the police' when they were carrying out a standard inspection of the club.

The police would no doubt consider this incitement. But that requires intent, and in the absence of more specific words commanding an attack, that looks dubious. In addition, the right to freedom of speech is most forcefully engaged when it is directed against those in power. And that means those in power need to exercise caution when dealing with such expressions. Unless there was actual violence, then the police's intervention in this case looks more than a little self-interested, aimed at forcing people to respect their "authority" rather than protecting the public.

No matter what the police think, it is not a crime to dislike them, and it is not a crime to say so, publicly and forcefully, to their face. In a free and democratic society, that is something they just have to put up with, just as the Prime Minister does. If they can't, or won't, then they have no business being police.