Media Release: G20 PROTEST GROUP AGREES WITH FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL: ‘TOOLS OF PROTEST’ ARE OK

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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

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1 Comment

  1. Max Riethmuller

    Don’t forget that we are yet to see any movement on masks, let alone the ridiculous “no-man’s land” march route they have given us. The fact they have still refused to allow use of masks shows that they view Queenslander’s rights with contempt. There is no concession here, no movement. They have not changed their basic position, which is that they view the interpretation of the Act as something that is their prerogative and that the imperative for interpreting the Act relates to the ease with which they can control a large group of people. This kind of thinking is what leads to every stricter ever tighter limits to personal freedom.

    There is still the issue of enhanced powers of search and questioning or the Presumption Against Bail provision. These powers are in themselves excessive, and don’t require the Police to make any stretch of interpretation in order to abuse. The abuse will occur just from using the powers, even without any intent on an officers part to misuse. In fact, I don’t really see an intent to abuse at all, but you give the police a billystick, and they will use it.

    This is one of the most draconian and unnecessary pieces of legislation that has been introduced in QLD since the Joh era. Police may have softened their position somewhat but I wouldn’t call this a “back down”.

    NEWS FLASH: Wayne Kelly, the PA on Wheels guy, was arrested and given an exclusion notice while walking home from Musgrave with his gear. Police aren’t really doing much to demonstrate that they support freedom of assembly are they? https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201859202440819&set=gm.733927890027883&type=1

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