Protest at a price?

p2350 election protest OKBy KIERAN FINNANE

 

What are people’s rights under Town Council By-laws to make their views known in a public place, Councillor Jade Kudrenko wants to know.

 

At last night’s committee meetings, she raised the example of a group (pictured) protesting outside the Chief Minister’s office during the recent election campaign. They were moved on by council rangers who told them they must apply for a permit (under By-law 33) at a fee of $80 a day.

 

Were the same directives given to other groups active during the campaign, she asked, mentioning an instance of people on the roundabout at the Stott Terrace bridge intersection, asking drivers to honk if they agreed with their slogans.

 

Director of Corporate and Community Services, Skye Price, said council applies the by-laws “equitably” to all citizens. Although she also said that rangers would approach people on roundabouts if they considered that they presented a traffic hazard – so it does sound like they use their discretion.

 

Ms Price said group outside the Chief Minister’s office did subsequently apply for a permit. She didn’t say whether they had paid the fee, which council can waive for community groups and not-for-profit organisations.

 

However, she said “we feel strongly” that the fee is appropriate as it helps people consider before “randomly” having a gathering.

 

Ms Price said groups are generally compliant in applying for permits, particularly if “many citizens” are involved.

 

What’s the definition of “many”, asked Cr Kudrenko, and for that matter what is the definition of “demonstration” and “protest”? She would like to see greater clarity in the terms and guidelines for application of this by-law as a matter of democratic principle and fairness.

 

Ms Price said this would be considered as part of an upcoming routine review of all by-laws and policies. She will also provide councillors with the record of permits issued and fees charged or waived.

 

During the discussion, Crs Jacinta Price and Jamie de Brenni said they were concerned about the potential for protesters to hinder people going about their business in the CBD. Cr de Benni also mentioned an incident where a learner driver was “panicked” by protesters and narrowly avoided an accident.

 

 

 

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