Violence is not the answer

Posted by matthew on Oct 24, 2011 in politics

The Fitzroy Legal Service attended the Occupy Melbourne protests referred to in my last post. It questions the role of a local council in silencing free speech, as well as the use of heavy-handed tactics when people were clearly undertaking a peaceful demonstration.

Meghan Fitzgerald, Lawyer at the Fitzroy Legal Service says:

The use of horses to ride directly into the crowd was appalling, and a measure that ordinary people would consider appropriate only in cases of dire emergency and public risk. When you decide to do that serious injuries are almost inevitable, and really call into question the role of the police in serving and protecting the community. I personally observed a significant number of injuries amongst those arrested, including children.

The central issue is that political demonstration is a democratic right, and should be given significant protection by the State. Justifying this kind of aggressive use of force because of inconvenience or embarrassment is really a sign that we need to have a good look at human rights protection in this State.

I couldn’t agree more.


The suppression of peaceful protests

Posted by matthew on Oct 21, 2011 in politics

Dear Lord Mayor,

Your actions today in calling in riot police to remove peaceful protesters from our City Square have embarrassed and appalled democratic, fair-minded people in our city. People like me, who are dedicated to the principles of peacefully sharing ideas under the protection of a strong democracy.

That you do not or are not able to share the views of those who protest is not an excuse for such a heavy-handed and needless display of aggravation. I do not accept the arguments you have made on the radio around whatever minor damage there may or may not have been to the square, nor to a few small businesses nearby. Those are comparatively minor wrongs that can be undone. If you really are unable to balance these minor property costs against the rights of people to engage in democratic free speech, I believe you are unworthy of your office.

The pictures taken today of protesters being carried away by police are now being beamed around the world. Meanwhile in New York, Sydney and hundreds of other cities around the world the Occupy protesters have been allowed to continue their protest without harassment. What do you believe this will say about the strength of our democracy — about our willingness to tolerate a range of views? I believe it will reflect very poorly on us.

This is not about a particular position on the issues the protesters are bringing up. It is about decent conduct in public office, and a respect for the democratic rights of your fellow citizens. I call upon you to apologise to the people of Melbourne for making such a poor judgement call today, and I believe the morally responsible thing for you to do following this is to resign.

I would like to add that I am not a member of a political party or protest group. I am a Melbourne academic who is ashamed of his Lord Mayor.

Your sincerely,

Matthew Riddle