Thursday, February 04, 2016

Are the police spying on our democracy?

The TPP was signed today in Auckland, surrounded by massive protests. I've been watching it over Twitter, and there have been several reports from those protests of the police filming and photographing protesters. While there's obvious merit in filing or photographing people for evidential purposes if they are committing a criminal offence, there police seem to be doing far more than that. Which raises obvious questions about what will happen to those photographs, and about what they are using them for.

Someone has already used FYI, the public OIA request site, to ask some of those questions, but I doubt we'll get real answers. But the obvious suspicion is that they're doing this for intelligence purposes, because they regard all protesters as dangerous, seditious criminals who need to be tracked and monitored (and, occasionally, intimidated).

We've seen this attitude before, in the UK. Police there conducted extensive surveillance of peaceful protesters, databasing them in an intelligence system for years and tracking their names, political affiliations and photographs - and all just for attending a peaceful protest. Our police may be doing the same thing.

In a free and democratic country, police have no business gathering or holding information on anyone not suspected of a criminal offence. And they certainly have no business photographing and potentially databasing people simply for exercising their legally affirmed right to protest. The police owe us some serious answers about what they're doing - and if they won't provide those answers, or if they are insufficient, Parliament should legislate to prevent them from abusing our democratic rights.