Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Free speech victory: Police defeated in court over illegal "move-on" notice

This video records the reaction by activists Alex Bainbridge and Kamala Emanuel after a significant court victory on 28 May 2013.

Emanuel had been charged with failure to comply with a move on notice that was issued during a rally against gas fracking in April 2012. She didn't claim to have complied with the move-on order but only that it had been issued invalidly - that is that there were no reasonable (or indeed legal) grounds for the move on notice to have been issued.

The magistrate Mr Huston found Emanuel "not guilty" and acquitted her of the charge.

His verdict found specifically that the Perth City Council rangers had no legal authority to seize the banner that sparked the issue and that the move-on notice was invalid.

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[The following article by Alex Bainbridge was submitted to Green Left #968.]

Free speech court victory over illegal move-on notices

Perth activist Kamala Emanuel won a resounding victory on May 28 in a significant court case dealing with the right to protest.

Emanuel was charged with failing to comply with a police move-on notice that was issued during an April 2012 protest rally against fracking. Emanuel did not dispute that she refused to comply with the move-on order but argued through her lawyer Phillip Laskaris in court that the move-on notice was invalid.

The police officer who issued the move-on notice justified his action by claiming that Emanuel had been disorderly prior to the issuing of the notice. (Police witnesses and the prosecutor argued in court that any behaviour that was not ``orderly'' should be classified as ``disorderly''.)

Magistrate Richard Huston found that Emanuel was not in fact being disorderly and that the police officer had no reasonable grounds to believe that she was. Therefore the move-on notice was invalid and Emanuel was ``not guilty''.

The significance of this decision goes beyond the particular incident in question.

Move-on notices are controversial because they give WA police a power that in practice is used in an arbitrary way against Aboriginal people, homeless people and others.

Move-on notices are also used unfairly against activists and protesters as in Emanuel's case. Prior to being issued with a move-on notice, Perth City Council rangers had tried to suppress the whole rally against gas fracking. They seized banners, placards and tables claiming that they were in violation of council by-laws.

The issuing of two police move-on notices at that rally was a use of police power to support an undemocratic Council attempt to suppress a legal, peaceful rally. Emanuel was holding onto a banner to prevent its seizure by council rangers when she was issued with the move-on notice.

One significant finding by the magistrate in Emanuel's case was that the council rangers had no legal authority to seize the banner that Emanuel was holding.

``This court decision is an important victory for the right to protest,'' Emanuel told Green Left. ``More important again was the victory won by a wide range of Perth activists in waging the free speech campaign [after last year's rally against fracking].''

Emanuel was referring to the repeated actions which challenged council attempts to suppress protests and won in practice the right to set up campaign stalls and to protest in Perth city. Council rangers have taken no significant action to suppress political activism in Perth since last year's free speech campaign was begun.

``This court victory will also give further confidence to Perth activists that we have the right to protest and that we should not put up with being pushed around by police and rangers if they again try to suppress our protest actions,'' Emanuel said.

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Green Left articles about this issue:

Council tries to suppress first Perth rally against gas 'fracking':

Defend the right to protest: drop the charges on Kamala Emanuel:

Perth court adjourns protester's trial:

Verdict delayed in free speech trial: