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The right to protest Christchurch version

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, March 22nd, 2022 - 31 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, human rights, workers' rights - Tags:

I have written a few posts about the right to protest and in particular how this relates to the Wellington Anti Vax protests.

Examples are here, here, here and here.

My views of the utility of the anti vaccination and anti mandate protests are clear and my view of the techniques that they adopted are very negative.

But there is one aspect where I find myself standing firmly if reluctantly with them and that concerns the actions of the Christchurch City Council charging Destiny Church for traffic management costs relating to marches that they conducted.

Stuff has the details:

An anti-Government protest group in Christchurch owe more than $24,000 for costs incurred during protests.

The Christchurch City Council has sent two invoices to The Freedoms and Rights Coalition, calling attention to local leader and Destiny Church pastor Derek Tait.

Tait said on Thursday he had not seen either bill.

The group has held several protests since November, which often start in Cranmer Square and involve thousands of people marching through central city streets.

The Freedoms and Rights Coalition was first sent a $14,117.47 invoice in early January for costs incurred during three protests in November and early December.

Last month, another invoice demanding $10,579.89 was sent to the group for another three protests held in January and December.

The council said it intended to send a third invoice to cover the costs of recent marches.

The invoices covered traffic management costs incurred by the council as a result of the protest marches, a council spokeswoman said.

Borrowing from my earlier post the right to protest is essentially the right to freedom of speech, the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of movement.  Having to pay for the exercise of any of these rights is ridiculous.  It also creates a hell of a precedent.  Imagine what employers would do if disruption to roads justified a Council imposing a levy.  The next picket line would be met with a bill for disruption of the road outside their premises and the ability for their scab transporters to move in and out.

John Minto has said this:

John Minto says charging Tait, organiser of the Freedom and Rights Coalition Christchurch protests, is a breach of the Bill of Rights and is a fundamental attack on the civil and political rights of every Christchurch resident.

“I strongly disagree with most of the views of the Freedom and Rights Coalition, but to try to charge them for costs associated with a public protest in a democratic country is fundamentally wrong at every level.”

He is right.  If protests breach legal requirements then the police can step in and act.  But otherwise all protestors should be allowed to exercise the exact same rights that the rest of us can exercise.  The right to protest should not require organisers to measure with accuracy what extra expenses Councils may incur to allow the right to protest to be exercised.

31 comments on “The right to protest Christchurch version ”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    Local Government should not be determining who has to pay for exercising their democratic freedoms of speech, assembly and association, and who does not.

    On a personal level however, I will not be supporting Destiny on anything till “hell freezes over” which obviously translates to never, given hell is a construct. Destiny has sought to undermine the public health response during a pandemic so they can sod right off. If they can get the invoices withdrawn good for them.

    • theotherpat 1.1

      yes

    • Hongi Ika 1.2

      Would be interesting if I did the same thing in Christchurch with 30-40 mates from up North whether I would be treated any differently. This Government handels everyone with kids gloves like they do Brain Tamake and his m8's and the Gangs this country is going to Hell in a Hand Basket IMHO ? Destiny Church and the Gangs are put on pedistals by the Government and the MSM.

    • KJT 1.3

      Protesters should not be charged costs, for protesting. Dangerous precedent.

      However Destiny, and other snake oil salesmen masquarading as a religion, should be paying their share of taxes towards the upkeep of the public spaces they are using.

  2. Kat 2

    Perhaps a legal decision on when a protest becomes an occupation is required.

    • aom 2.1

      You need to think that one through a bit more Kat. Not all occupations are equal.

    • Incognito 2.2

      What has that got to do with the price fish? Did Destiny Church ‘occupy’ a roundabout or traffic island in Christchurch?

      • aom 2.2.1

        Don't behave like a dick Incognito – the conversation with Kat was about occupations generally, NOT Destiny!

        • Incognito 2.2.1.1

          What convo with Kat? Kat made a new (isolated) very brief comment, which could be(come) the start of a thread. I cannot find anything in the OP about Destiny Church staging/leading an actual occupation in ChCh. Maybe it was in one of the links? So, I’m trying to clear up (my) confusion about occupation vs. protest, as per Kat’s very brief comment. Put differently, if DC had led a protest but not an occupation in ChCh would they still have received those invoices for “traffic management costs incurred by the council as a result of the protest marches”? The answer is obviously “Yes”, otherwise this OP would not be here.

          If DC should not be charged for costs incurred then why should or shouldn’t any other person or organisation be charged for the same thing? You can make your case as general as you like, but it helps if you (or Kat) explain clearly what you’re talking about. Nothing dick-ish about that.

          • aom 2.2.1.1.1

            Yes there is dickishness Incogneto! The response was to "Perhaps a legal decision on when a protest becomes an occupation is required."

            • Incognito 2.2.1.1.1.1

              Are you making a case for legally allowing/enabling councils to decide when/whether a protest is an occupation and therefore councils are justified in charging costs incurred for traffic management?

              Why don’t you just make your point instead of going on about dickiness.

              • aom

                Why don't you read what is written instead of making up what you want to see. Anyway, why do you think it necessary to jump in on a perfectly simple conversation between two commenters. Inflated sense of entitlement maybe?

                • Incognito

                  So far, I’ve only read very brief comments in this thread that are ambiguous and confusing to me. So, I’ve prompted and asked for clarification. None has been forthcoming, so far, neither from Kat nor from you.

                  I replied to the first comment in this thread by Kat. This is how it has been working on TS since it started in 2007 and discussions are open and inclusive. The entitled one seems to be you who wants to keep this thread to Kat and yourself only, it seems. If you and Kat want a private conversation then you’d need to take it elsewhere so that others can’t see it and respond to it.

                  • aom

                    Stop digging before you bury yourself. Actually, the response to Kat was very straight forward it you weren't indulging yourself in meaningless verbiage and wanted to consider who might be caught up in what she proposed.

                    Too hard?

                    [We appreicate robust debate on TS but not abuse of authors. Cool it. – MS]

  3. I had thought that at one stage in relation to the earlier $14,000 bill Destiny Church had been saying their use of Cranmer Square was as a church service as a way to get around the concerns of the residents about loud microphones/music and clogged up parking across driveways etc.

    The anti- vaccination occupation came later.

    Why would using the square for church services be classed as a protest?

    The actual walking from an assembly point through town to another assembly point would fall into the category of a protest. I am not sure about the Cranmer Square issue

    https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/news/national/covid-19-delta-outbreak-christchurch-council-sends-protesters-14-000-traffic-management-bill/

    'She said the ongoing church services and protests are upsetting local residents.

    "We totally share the frustration of residents who have complained to us about the impacts of the noise and behaviour associated with their events on their neighbourhood. We are pursuing all avenues to minimise, or preferably eliminate, the adverse impacts on the Cranmer Square residents.

    "Cranmer Square is a special park and the only events that are normally held there are commemorative events, such as Anzac Day services." '

    I feel the council should separate out the costs related to the long Destiny Church occupation of Cranmer Square from the bills they have sent for traffic management of the marchers. Destiny Church should pay for the disruption they caused in Cranmer Square including any disruption needing enforcement leading up to the protest marches, From my understanding enforcement action had to be taken by CCC against non permitted amplified music and speech, constant parking across driveways as part of the Church services.

    Otherwise any occupation or use for anything can be called a protest and we have set ourselves up for non permitted uses of public spaces (and remember that constant use by one group of a previously public space sends a message that in fact the use has changed to private, even if de facto and/or illegal)

    In fact it is a squatters or occupiers charter.

    I cannot locate it now but my recollection is that Destiny Church were moved on in Christchurch from another public area they were occupying for church services and they then moved on to squat at Cranmer Square for the church services.

  4. Incognito 4

    To me, this falls squarely in the user-pays category and is not too dissimilar has having to cover (or subsidise?) so-called costs for OIA requests although you can challenge these. The effect is chilling and stalling NZ citizens expressing or exercising their relative freedoms or what’s left of these. I won't even go to implications for equality and fairness. With tighter budgets this will only get worse I believe.

  5. Ad 5

    Most protests breach the law one way or the other. Not sure that's a useful measure.

    What bills should protesters be liable for?

    – Policing?

    – Rebuilding Parliament grounds, including the ridiculous child's slide?

    – Business losses?

    – Injury?

    – Local government work such as sewerage and parking?

    – Rebuilding Parliament security?

    If anyone pays anything other than a Court-ordered fine for a specific breach, the next protest will have a shell company in the Cayman's set up.

  6. mpledger 6

    Aren't the costs being imposed because the protest wasn't notified to the council beforehand? That seems fair enough to me. The rules are there to try and keep people safe. It doesn't stop people protesting, it stops people being selfish and arroagant.

    • Shanreagh 6.1

      Aha could be.

      Also I think some costs for the breaches of conditions and loud music have probably been wrapped up there too and the Church just went ahead and occupied the area for its church services despite pleas from Council to move, regularise etc.

      If we are going to allow long term occupation of a public reserve by a church group what next? Will we all be able to take a little shed down to our closest reserve, place it there filled with our bits and bobs ready for an open air darts competition or knitting en plien air or knitting en plein air with optional amplified reggae rock plus optional visits from relatives on loud revving Harleys? What about a shed with all our gardening/outdoor furniture and permanent brush fences that we put up to mark our posse from weekend to weekend plus the optional music and Harleys? OK?

      What say we triple the numbers at all these events to 200-300? Still OK? What say we do nothing to dissuade our knitters from parking across residents drives when they come? Still OK? What say we put our sheds, stages at the part of the park closest to the residents? Still Ok?

      What say we say 'stuff you' to the Council that tries to fix the problem by encouraging getting permits for the use and the amplified music. Still OK?

      And our people have not yet permanently day to day occupied yet nor left the grounds for a march into town.

  7. weston 7

    Now that half the population seemingly now works for traffic safety companies i guess someone has to pay ?Thars gold in them cones !!Soon we,ll need traffic safety to make it to the shithouse .

  8. McFlock 8

    So I'm concerned that any march organisers can be "billed" for any march. If the argument is more nuanced than that, it leaves protestors room, but if it's just because a crowd were on a traffic island or something – every union or political party has folks doing that at some point in time.

    Also, fuck density church.

    So many emotions.

    • Puckish Rogue 8.1

      Strange bedfellows indeed

    • Hongi Ika 8.2

      Protestors are going to have to be a bit more sensible both RW & LW Nut Jobs IMHO.

      • McFlock 8.2.1

        Depends on the scope.

        One could argue that if someone buses 300 people to a protest without prior arrangement, supplies the PA system, and a place gets trashed just by the sheer number of people… maybe a bit of the re-turfing bill should go to them. Grass in Dunedin's Octagon is going to be fucking dead by now.

        But the other end of that plank is 6 people waving placards get invoiced a huge amount because their protest caused an inconvenience, which means simply holding up a "toot for support" sign could bankrupt a household.

  9. Powerman 9

    Are these events demonstrations, bikie meets, church services, cult gatherings, picnics or commercial opportunities for destiny church? Whatever they are a disruption to the lives of Christchurch folk and are occurring on a regular basis with the ratepayers having to bear the costs.

    Personally, I would not want to have to put up with this disruption in my backyard, would you Micky?

    • Shanreagh 9.1

      Are these events demonstrations, bikie meets, church services, cult gatherings, picnics or commercial opportunities for destiny church? Whatever they are a disruption to the lives of Christchurch folk and are occurring on a regular basis with the ratepayers having to bear the costs.

      This is my point too. The unauthorised use of Cranmer Square started before the recent vaccination/mandate protests. The Church was moved on from using a site, was it Hagley Park? and so set up in Cranmer Square where they have neither sought permission not attempted to mitigate the affects on residents of their illegal use of Cranmer Square. The Council has been called several times and there are noise problems from amplified music. Semi permanent structures have been left at the Square from week to week.

      I think before saying that the costs are unreasonable etc perhaps a close look at the background would be an idea. I am not sure if permission has to be sought generally for marches in Chch. If so, and the permission was not sough,t and so traffic management could not be put in place, then I have no problems with a bill being sent.

      As far as I know the marches to Parliament from Civic Square here in Wellington do have a requirement for permission and this enable a police/traffic management presence so that intersections are controlled, buses rerouted if necessary etc.

      Of course if the marches from Cranmer Square had been permitted ie permission sought then the costs should not be charged, as the CCC would have had time to organise intersection control etc etc. If they were done on the fly, as so much of the Destiny church stuff seemingly is, and the CCC had to also organise traffic management on the fly, then I have no problems with DC being charged.

      I have no problems with DC being charged for mitigation measure over their illegal use of Cranmer Square.

  10. Craig H 10

    If someone wants to have a wedding in a Christchurch park under the control of the Council e.g. the Botanical Gardens, they have to pay for it (pay for exclusive use of the particular area as it involves staff resources e.g. rangers moving other people along if necessary – the Council has some standard areas on their website for booking).

    I could see Council, both elected reps and staff, wondering why that's the case, but meanwhile there's no charge if a group tramples through with a few hundred (or thousand) protestors and ruins the grass, and potentially considering/enacting by-laws to that effect.

    On the other hand, obviously there's quite a difference in terms of human rights and civil liberties between a wedding in a public place and a protest in a public place, whether a march, rally and/or occupation.

    • Peter 10.1

      The moral of the story if someone wants to have a wedding in a Christchurch park under the control of the Council e.g. the Botanical Gardens, is to call it a protest.

  11. Jenny how to get there 11

    The right to protest Russian version

    "Even if the death penalty threatened me, I'd do it again. And I'd do it again and again and again…. They say that repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is madness. Then hope is madness. And ceasing to do what you consider right because everyone around you thinks it is hopeless is surrendering to helplessness. I would rather look insane to your eyes than helpless to mine."

    'We Will Win'

    Olga Misik

    'I Was Never Afraid': In The Face Of Criminal Charges, Russian Teen Protester Stands Defiant

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