I was going to blog on this but Stephen Franks and the Free Speech Coalition have done it for me. Stephen’s statement draws attention to yet another of the multiple attacks being mounted on freedom of expression. (Note the Stuff story’s warning about an “offensive image”. Good grief.)
A complaint regarding an allegedly “offensive and racist” sign led to a visit from the police. The Marlborough man was ordered to cover the sign. Under what power? There is no offence of causing people to be offended – yet. We can thank our forebears for the essential principle that freedom of expression means nothing if it does not protect the speaker from those claiming to be offended. The handwritten sign was perfectly legal.
Free Speech Coalition spokesperson Stephen Franks says “Whoever took this 'initiative' in the police should be told to pull their head in. The definition of a free country is being able to express your opinion on your own property without having cops knocking at your door.
“The way to deal with a sign you don’t like is to make your own sign, not call the police.
claim this sign breached a bylaw against road
signage clutter. That is patent nonsense. It was no more distracting than
graffiti, and much less than the numerous Marlborough signs desperately seeking
patrons for cellar doors, restaurants and accommodation. The assertion is a
serious abuse of Council power, without regard to the protection for free
speech in the NZ Bill of Rights Act.
"I was in Parliament when we considered Council powers. With Nandor Tanczos, I managed to have the Local Government Act amended to prohibit by-laws which conflict with the Bill of Rights. The sign is not 'threatening, abusive or insulting,' which is the threshold for our offence of Racial Disharmony, in the Human Rights Act.”
“Is this is a trial run for police power to
crush ‘non-crime hate incidents' - a UK practice? Our useless Human
Rights Commission is now chaired by an imported UK Corbyn acolyte, here to help
Minister Little bring in his hate-speech law. FSC fears that our HRC will seek
police powers to investigate, record and threaten people
for ‘incidents of hate’ that are nevertheless legal.
"This was ruled out by the Royal Commission on Hate Speech Laws for the very reason that such a practice is a massive, unwarranted expansion of police powers over people’s ability to speak freely. Minister Little, what do you say about the police harassment of the Marlborough Man?"
Amen to all that.