Thursday, January 07, 2010

Protest and democracy

Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer on the protest against her yesterday:

"They're doing what they want. Everyone can do whatever they want, as long as I'm winning I don't care."
Peer understands that in a democratic society, such protests are legitimate and have to be tolerated. Sadly, our authoritarian thugs-in-blue disagree. Global Peace & Justice Auckland has more about yesterday's arrest, and it looks even worse:
The protest had broken up at 12 noon and was leaving the stadium and returning to vehicles when police arrived and asked for an assurance we would not be protesting again at the tournament with either a drum or a loudhailer. Giving such an assurance was politely declined whereupon the police sought to seize the loudhailer. The person holding it was astonished at the request, declined to give it up and was arrested.
Media accounts differ on whether the charge is disorderly behaviour (interfering unduly with the right of other members of the public to use the space for its customary purpose), or breach of the peace (starting or being likely to start a riot). Neither is sustainable. The BORA's affirmation of freedom of speech sets a high bar on the level of conduct required to be considered "disorderly" - and merely making unwelcome noise simply doesn't cut it, while the idea that making noise amounts to rioting is simply laughable. This was a gross abuse of police power, and the officers responsible need to be held to account for it. Police who do not respect the public's right to protest have no place in the police force of a modern democracy.