13 September 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Police Attempts To Criminalise Black Power Gang Patches A Gross Overreach Of Their Duties
Police attempts to seize and criminalise a flag and the patch of a new chapter of the Black Power gang in the Marlborough region are a gross overreach of their duties and powers, and must be opposed, says Dane Giraud, spokesperson for the Free Speech Union.
“In attempting to secure the classification of an offensive gang patch as objectionable, Police are setting a dangerous precedent of creating ‘hate speech’ on the fly.
“There is nothing in the patch that is inherently promoting crime or violence, this is simply an attempt at the suppression of an organisation’s right to speech and association, as protected under the Bill of Rights.
“That the patch is upsetting to some is no excuse for classifying it as objectionable and thankfully the chief censor’s office agreed. What was so chilling about the submission made by the police to the censor’s office was the use of the same weak talking-points frequently used by pro-censorship activists in order to violate the rights of the gang chapter. New Zealanders should view this as a seriously distressing development.
“The ’N-word’ that features on the flag and patch is offensive to many. But representatives of the chapter have stated that their use of the term is about neutralising it and separating it of its historic power to do harm by making it their own. Surely a historically oppressed and victimsed people should reserve this right, just as a Member of Parliament attempted to reclaim the ‘C-word’ only a few years ago. The Police didn’t try to arrest the MP then. How dare anyone, let alone law-enforcement, seek to abuse the law now.
“This case really shows how subjective our relationship with words are - how words carry different meanings to different people - and how policing them will always violate someone’s equality.
“That race relations commissioner Meng Foon has voiced support for this Police action is also a failure of his responsibility.
“A chapter of a gang using an offensive slur in their patch should be the least of the Police’s concern, especially at the current time of high crime rates. Stamping out criminal activity requires the targeting of that activity, not the speech and free association of groups of people.
“Ultimately, this is just another attempted use of the law to censor and suppress an organisation, with the weak, nebulous justification of ‘offense’.”
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