Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Activist summonsed to court for holding banner while City of Perth fines homeless people for holding signs

[The following media release was issued by Defend Free Speech Perth on 11 July 2012.]

Revelations that the City of Perth has been harassing homeless people and issuing fines to people who hold cardboard signs highlights the undemocratic nature of City of Perth by-laws that contradict free speech rights according to the campaign group Defend Free Speech in Perth.

"We are outraged by the behaviour of Perth City Council in this matter," said group spokesperson, Jess McLeod.

"This harassment of Perth's poor really cuts to the heart of the inequality coming out of the mining boom," said McLeod.

"Perth is home to the world’s richest woman and we are all subjected to imposing marketing campaigns by the big corporations that are benefiting from the boom, yet those who are cut out of the boom are penalised when they have to beg to survive."

In a parallel development, Perth activist Kamala Emanuel was yesterday summonsed to court in relation to an April protest against gas fracking in which she was holding a banner.

"This is indicative of the harsh measures used to stifle criticism of the social consequences of environmental destruction related to the mining and resources boom," said Alex Bainbridge, also of Defend Free Speech Perth.

"The Perth City Council involved the WA Police because the activist had the temerity to hold a banner which police tried to seize - a banner that incidentally opposed the social and environmental damage of the gas industry," said Bainbridge.

"This is yet another example of city by-laws and police move-on notices being used to try to silence voices of opposition. We are regularly reminded of the mining and resources boom, but anyone who criticises the priorities of industry or exposes the existing inequality soon finds themselves in trouble in the Perth City Council."

Kamala Emanuel is due to face court on August 9.

"Big companies like BHP can put up expensive signs which pollute the city scape while social and environmental activists and poor people face this kind of petty harassment," said Seamus Doherty of Defend Free Speech Perth.

City of Perth "Signs Local Law 2005" prohibits the "display [of] a hand held sign on ... a public place [without approval]". Defend Free Speech maintains that people do not need the permission of local governments or other authorities to exercise their rights to free speech and political dissent.

Defend Free Speech also condemns the City of Perth for their harassment and intimidation of the poor and homeless.

We call on the City of Perth to amend or rescind any and all local laws that interfere with free speech rights and/ or victimise the poor.

For further information or comment:

Jess McLeod 0416 160 605
Alex Bainbridge 0413 976 638
Seamus Doherty 0407 906 803

See also this video by Zeb Parkes for Green Left TV