At the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally on Saturday in Auckland’s Albert Park, Police claimed regarding women’s right activist, Posie Parker, that "she is in a public space. If she feels unsafe she needs to leave." Regardless of our views on Parker’s claim, this is an abject failure of the Police to do their job; defending the basic liberties of those in New Zealand, including free speech.
The counter-protest on Saturday used the ‘Thug’s Veto’ to silence opponents, not through debate or reason, but through manifest intimidation.
Without the right to peacefully gather and express beliefs and opinions, controversial or condemnable though some may consider them to be, free speech is no longer protected in New Zealand. Free speech guarantees the right to both express perspectives and views, and also to hear others perspectives and views.
The Police have failed in their duty to protect these foundational rights.
If you take free speech off the table, as it seems Police allowed to happen on Saturday, the contested opinions and beliefs don’t simply go away. However, the ability to express them peacefully is undone. This leaves only far more extreme forms of expression on the table. We are concerned for the tenor of public debate, and the potential for this to produce violence.
We believe in tolerance. Without free speech, eventually we will all lose.
We call on you, and the Police Commissioner, to acknowledge the lack of action to defend the basic speech rights of those who turned up to the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally, and reassert that those who express unpopular or controversial views in public are entirely in their right, and deserve to be protected from threats, intimidation, and violence.