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For immediate release November 12, 2014
G20 PROTEST GROUP AGREES WITH FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL: ‘TOOLS OF PROTEST’ ARE OK
A protest group behind what is billed to be the largest demonstration against the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane has hailed former Queensland Solicitor General Walter Sofronoff’s comments on the legality of protests items such as masks and loudhailers at G20 protests in Brisbane.
G20 “Peoples’ March” organiser Ewan Saunders said Mr Sofronoff’s comments at a recent public meeting convened by Caxton Legal Centre represent a victory for democratic rights in Queensland.
“Mr Sofronoff’s comments are just legal common sense and the fact that police have backed down from quite an anti-democratic position regarding community protests is a positive development,” Mr Saunders said.
“Police have until now made extra-legal declarations regarding certain items that are I think ordinary ‘tools of protest’ such as theatrical masks, loudhailers and protest banners; items that we have always considered we had lawful excuse to carry as part of peaceful demonstrations,” he said.
Until Mr Sofronoff’s recent statements, police had insisted that these were “prohibited items” even for the purpose of lawful assemblies, despite “lawful excuse” provisions in the G20 Safety and Security Act 2013.
Police have since backed down on this position according to a November 11 article from The Guardian Australia, but still insist that face masks are “banned”, despite legal opinion to the contrary.
Mr Saunders said: “By unilaterally declaring a blanket ban on ordinary protest materials, police were defying the intent of the legislation which is to prevent disruption to the G20 Summit while allowing ordinarily lawful activities including peaceful protest.”
“This could well have resulted in countless unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters at great monetary and social expense to the community.”
“It is simply not the job of police to seek to misuse legislation to stifle legitimate, lawful and peaceful protest, so I’m pleased to hear that they’ve adjusted their interpretation of the Act somewhat,” he said.
“I also think it’s worth asking where the initial, repressive interpretation of the G20 legislation originated, especially considering Premier Campbell Newman’s history of using the Queensland Police to help him avoid protest groups.”
“The police are here to protect the public, not to help politicians avoid embarrassment by frustrating community protest,” Mr Saunders said.
FOR MEDIA COMMENT, CONTACT: Ewan Saunders (BRISCAN-G20) on 0401 234 610
For more information on the G20 Peoples’ March and Peoples’ Summit, visit briscan.net.au