NSWCCL: The Right to Protest must be protected

NSW Council for Civil Liberties was born out of a protest movement in 1963 and we continue to honour the legacy of the Council’s members who fought against police brutality and for equal rights. Our proud history is built around grassroots action.

Today, we proudly stand beside over sixty civil liberty and human rights organisations that have endorsed the “Declaration of our Right to Protest” which has been developed by the Human Rights Law Centre and in consultation with activists and advocates from around the country.

Sign the petition here.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

The right to protest needs to be protected, even if protests are considered disruptive, controversial or inconvenient. Our right to protest is a hallmark of a healthy and functioning democracy and we should be critical of any attempts to curtail the right to protest in our communities.

The political and police response to protestors and protest movements has become increasingly hostile over the last decade and has resulted in the demonisation of protestors and protest movements. This must immediately stop.

Those who have been elected to represent the Australian public must recognise that they have an obligation to the public to protect their right to protest. They have an obligation not to diminish the right to protest and the role it plays in protecting and maintaining our democracy.

NSW Police should appreciate that effective policing in communities only occurs when the public have faith and trust in the police force. The relationship between police and communities is at risk of further deterioration as a result of NSW police responses to protestors and protest movements.

Imposing significantly onerous bail conditions in protest matters is a form of disruptive policing that aims to pre-emptively restrict the public’s capacity to organise and form protest movements. This is a use of bail for purposes that are not consistent with the overarching purpose of bail.

The increase of NSW Police conducting surveillance on protestors who do not pose any threat to communities and who are peaceful protestors should be a concern for concern, as well as a misuse of limited resources and public funds. 

The media’s role in demonising protestors and protest movements must also stop. Australia has a long history of protesting on social justice issues, and this should be recognised and celebrated. The media have an obligation to ensure that their reporting does not impact on the intellectually dishonest portrayal of protest movements in Australia.  

Protesting is an important civil liberty and human right, which also acts to strengthen social cohesion and allows people to fully participate in the social and political aspects of our democracy.

We call upon both the NSW Government and NSW Police to support the right to protest and specifically, the Declaration on our Right to Protest.

We all have a role to play in protecting the fabric of our democracy and it starts with protecting our right to protest.

Read the declaration here.