Peer Protesters’ Convictions Quashed
Six protesters convicted of disorderly behaviour when protesting during a tennis match featuring Israeli star Shahar Peer have had their convictions quashed.
Justice Paul Heath said in New Zealand’s High Court that the disruption of an individual’s enjoyment of a sporting event was not the same as disruption of public order.
Tennis administrators tried to stop the pro-Palestinian group protesting about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. When they failed, the police took over and six protesters were arrested.
They were convicted in the city’s District Court.
The judgement quashing the charges stated that ”a verbalised protest may offend or disturb a member of the public. But disruption to an individual’s enjoyment of a sporting event is not the same thing as disruption of public order.
Justice Heath told the court the protest was to get a message to Peer about the concerns of the Israeli treatment of the Occupied territories saying “the level of the noise had to be sufficiently loud to impart their views to those inside the stadium.”
Protester John Minto told stuff.co.nz “Annoyance is not a crime, annoyance is part of being in a democracy.”
Geoff Levy, chairman of the New Zealand Jewish Council, told J-Wire: “The dismissal of charges against John Minto and others is not really a surprise.
The New Zealand Supreme Court gives great weight to Freedom of speech. The right to protest if carried out in a in a way that is deemed ‘not to amount to disorderly behaviour ‘ (a question of degree) will nearly always be upheld.
This year the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that burning the New Zealand flag at an ANZAC day ceremony did not amount to disorderly behaviour.
Heath J was following the law as it exists now in relation to the right of protest. ‘The ( New Zealand ) Supreme court unanimously laid down a principle that we can’t punish behaviour as offensive unless it’s disturbing public order. And when protesters are exercising speech rights, we must be extra tolerant of their views and their methods – even if we despise both – before we can call their conduct criminal’.
It follows the US Supreme Court Views on freedom of speech.”