12 January 2024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Police must persevere to uphold protest rights, condemn violence
The Free Speech Union endorses the Police's search for the man who assaulted a pro-Palestinian protester at an Auckland rally yesterday, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.
"The right to peacefully protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy. It relies on the Police to uphold it with the expectation that violence will not be tolerated. If someone disagrees with a protest or rally, they can counter-protest. This should be encouraged. But a resort to violence is unacceptable.
"In recent protests on the Israel-Gaza conflict, Police have not always upheld the right of peaceful protest. Last year, two people were arrested for peacefully counter-protesting at rallies. This is not how democracy works, and it sends the wrong message to the public. Words are our tools for defending our views and for debating others. Without these, we resort to violence. And violence deserves punishment.
"Yes, this is a highly emotive and sensitive topic, but no one wins an argument by force. The urge to shut down an opinion we strongly disagree with can be a natural impulse, but we have to resist that. If we want to have our say, we must allow others the same right.
"It is crucial that the right to peacefully protest and counter-protest is upheld and encouraged no matter which side of the argument you're on. Violence should not be tolerated. We're pleased that the Police are upholding this and urge them to continue."
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