As lprent has already posted: I was arrested today for chanting on a megaphone. This is the third time I have been arrested for the same thing.
As I mentioned yesterday, there was the broiler conference protests in 2005 which led to a precedent being set in the High Court that it is valid to use a megaphone at a protest. In 2007 I was arrested for chanting on a megaphone outside a shop selling fur as part of Auckland Animal Action’s Fur-Free Auckland Campaign. In that case I explained to the officers that I had the right to use a megaphone, and ignored warnings to cease and desist. At the police station, the more senior police officer spoke to me about it and realized that I was right. They then amended the charge to obstructing police, which was apparently because I refused to engage (after a certain point) with the officers about the use of the megaphone. I went through the usual preliminary hearing and status hearing, and a few months later turned up to my defended hearing all ready to argue the case. The police decided to withdraw the charge at the last minute, so I never got the chance to argue the case in front of a judge. I suspect they dropped the charges because they had been told the basis of my planned defense by my ex, the spy.
Today, the police clearly also came to the same conclusion – that my behavior was not disorderly. I have again been charged with obstruction, and while I won’t find out what is alleged against me until court next Thursday, I suspect it will be similar to that in my fur-protest case in 2007. I look forward to winning in court.
After the usual couple of hours in a cell (fortunately with my friend Ruth, rather than on my own) and being fingerprinted etc, it came time to sign my bail form and be released. I looked at the bail form, and saw that like the others I was going to be banned from within 500 meters of the protest location. I informed the Constable that I wasn’t going to be signing the form, and he said I’d be locked up for the weekend. I still refused to sign the form, quite prepared to stay in a cell for the weekend if it meant not having to comply with an unlawful bail condition.
Bradford v Police  is a very clear precedent from the High Court on the matter of bail conditions relating to protests. Sue Bradford was arrested in 1995 for protesting at the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting for obstructing a public road. She was given a bail condition not to protest at all anywhere. The condition was appealed to the High Court, and two important legal clarifications came out of that. The first, that the bail condition has to be related to the offense alleged. This meant that the bail condition was firstly amended to say she couldn’t protest at the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting, rather than a general protest ban. The second clarification was that bail conditions cannot unreasonably limit the rights affirmed under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. This led to the bail condition being amended further to say she couldn’t protest unlawfully at the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting.
So following Bradford v Police, if the police want to put conditions like that on, they should say something along the lines of “Not to protest unlawfully at the tennis stadium”. Aside from the general issues that I couldn’t attend university next week, go to the hospital if I got sick, or possibly even stay at my house (while another condition says I have to reside at my address), the general principle is flawed and I would never agree to such an unreasonable restriction of my civil liberties.
I was moved into an overnight cell and fully expected to be locked up for the weekend. Not long after that the Constable (who BTW was quite nice) came back to my cell and asked me if it made a difference that Shahar Peer had lost the tennis, and therefore wouldn’t be playing in the next few days. I said it made no difference at all and that I had no real plans to keep protesting but objected to the condition on principle. The Constable went away and came back a few minutes to say his Sergeant had decided to be nice and drop the condition. I was very relieved not to have to stay in a cell all weekend!
Finally, I thought I’d address a couple of points that keep coming up in the comments threads on this issue.
While I totally support the objectives of the protests at the tennis, it’s not something I would usually attend myself. I have enough of my own pet causes keeping me busy. The reason I decided to attend was because of the police reaction to the protests – police reaction or overreaction to legitimate protests is a pet cause of mine. I wanted to attend to help those protesting reaffirm their right to do so.
Unlike many people have portrayed, we are not protesting against the “poor Israeli tennis player”. I would have no problem with Shahar Peer coming to New Zealand for a visit or even to play tennis. I do have a problem with New Zealand having sporting connections with Israel, and in this case Shahar Peer is essentially representing the Israel state. Further, even though the Israeli embassy would actually be a more appropriate place to protest, the fact is protests are conducted to draw attention to a cause, and there would be very little attention at an embassy. Unfortunately to get the corporate media interested, it is necessary to be controversial. My hope is that by drawing attention to the cause, however controversial the tactics used to do so, we will generate some debate on the issues within the public. Change only occurs with discourse.
I also want to make it very clear that this is not a racist protest. It is a political protest against the Israeli government, not the individual Israeli people. There are many Israeli’s who disagree with what their government is doing. A great example of that is Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Before his death in October, Edelman was denied an award by Israel due to his frequent criticisms of the Israeli state.
As Shahar Peer has herself said, she is not phased by the protests. Unlike the New Zealand Police, she recognises our right to protest, despite disagreeing with us and supporting the policies of the Israel state. She has been quoted as saying:
They’re doing what they want. Everyone can do whatever they want, as long as I’m winning I don’t care.
Further, Shahar Peer in good humour joked that the police arresting Ruth and I early into the match today is what made her lose:
I guess it wasn’t loud enough for me to play good because the other days it was very loud and I won the matches.
While a couple of the protesters were chanting chants directly at Shahar Peer, Ruth and I today leading the chants on the megaphones were sticking to those more focused on the policies of the Israeli state.
Note: Apologies for any American spelling in this post. I’ve been writing this post in the car on the way to Otaki, and Lynn decided to use his stupid American spell-checker on my it when we stopped in Rotorua for dinner. I can’t be bothered fixing it.
Note 2: Just finishing up, and lprent just got pulled over for speeding. Just before the police lights went on behind us, Lprent commented that his speed was a little bit fast after going over the hill. He was just slowing down. How annoying. Like we haven’t had enough of the police for one day! Unfortunately, the police actions here were well within the law 🙁