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Letter Of Complaint Over Banning Of Placards

Official Letter Of Complaint To CEO Bryan Taylor Over Banning Of Placards And Banners.

The following letter of complaint was personally handed to Bryan Taylor by myself at approximately 5.40pm Wednesday 13 March.

13 March 2002.

Mr Bryan Taylor,

On the advice if the Office of the Ombudsman.I am making a formal complaint to you as CEO of Auckland City Council,

The complaint is that there has been a decision made by Mayor John Banks to ban banners and placards from Council and Committee meetings.

According to a letter I received under the Local Government Meetings and Information Act 1987, from Murray Smith, City Secretary, I was told:

"There is no specific provision for the taking of these decisions in standing orders, however,I would refer you to Standing Order 1.3.1, which states:

"The Chairperson shall decide all questions where these standing orders make no provision or insufficient provision.."

and 1.3.2, which states:

"In regard to order 1.3.1, the Chairperson's ruling shall be final and not open to debate."

There is no documentation on the above matter, apart from the memo of the Manager, Democracy Services dated 26 February 2002, which document is apparently already in your possession."

According to the Office of the Ombudsman, Standing Orders NZS 9202: 1992, are only a 'guide'.

It is the Local Government Act 1974 Part 5A, which is the LAW, that governs standing orders for Local Government, and within which the standing orders adopted by local authorities must comply.

"114M Standing Orders

Procedures at Meetings

[114M. Standing orders-----(1) Every local authority shall adopt a set of standing orders for the conduct of its meetings and those of its committees.

(2) The standing orders of a local authority shall not contravene any provisions of this Act, or of the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987, or of any other Act.

(3) After the adoption of the first standing orders of the local authority, the adoption or amendment of standing orders shall require, in every case, a vote of three-quarters of the members present." ............. This ban on banners and placards contravenes Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

"14 Freedom of Expression

14. Freedom of expression---Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form."

It also contravenes Article 19 of the Universal Declararion of Human Rights which states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

If a banner or placard is held in a manner that does not obstruct any other person, and such a banner or placard is unattached to a stick or a pole, for the purpose of imparting or expressing an opinion by a citizen, at a Council meeting, then it is not being used as an 'offensive weapon', and such a claim borders on the ridiculous.

Mere attendance at a Council or Committee meeting does not give an opportunity to a citizen to 'express or impart' an opinion. There must be some physical means of expressing or imparting an opinion. There is not an 'open forum' time at Council meetings where citizens can speak out. Only delegated speakers who have applied within certain time limits and been accepted, have that right - which is limited to two people with a maximum speaking time of 5 minutes each.

If other citizens express or impart their opinions verbally - they can be asked to leave the meeting on the grounds that they are disturbing the orderly conduct of the meeting.

By what mechanism then are Councillors to know what the opinion is that citizens hold inside their heads? Osmosis? ESP?

To hold a placard or banner, unobstructively, at a Council meeting, in order to express or impart an opinion, is a right that is protected by law in New Zealand, and the Mayor (especially an ex-Minister of Police) has no right to treat the democratic rights of citizens with so little respect.

It was stated in the "Inquiry into matters relating to the visit of the President of China to New Zealand in 1999" that

"As a matter of New Zealand law, the Bill of Rights must be complied with by the Police and other State agencies in all their actions, including any steps taken in protecting the dignity of a visiting Head of State. New Zealand is accountable at international law for any government actions that affect the rightrs enjoyed by all New Zealanders."

It is to be presumed that Auckland City Council is not above New Zealand law?

Mr Taylor, on two previous occasions I have taken the placard that I intend to take tonight into Council meetings. Photos and witnesses present will confirm that the placard was not attached to any stick or pole, was not used any any way as an 'offensive weapon' and was held in such a way that caused no obstruction to any other person.

I intend to take the same placard into the Council meeting tonight, and hold it in the same manner, in order to express my opinion about the proposals to sell off Council housing. That is my right, under Section 14 of the NZ Bill of Rights, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as already outlined.

Any attempt to violate that right, will have repercussions.

It is the attempt to privatise public property, with no mandate, and attempts to attack democratic rights of citizens that, in my opinion, should be regarded as 'criminal behaviour'.

Yours truly

Penny Bright.

_______________________________________________________

I was arrested for 'Breach of the peace' at approximately 6.15pm, after I tried to take the same placard that I had taken to two previous Council meetings, into the Town Hall. Three security guards refused to allow me up the steps into the Town Hall, because my placard breached the rules of entry into the building. They stated that they were acting on the authority of the CEO. I explained that I had made an official complaint to the CEO, and asked to speak to the most senior Police Officer present. The Sargeant concerned did not want to 'debate the issues', and did not do his job as spelled out in Police General Instruction DO 31 in balancing 'the need to maintain order against the rights of citizens. Among those rights are: * Freedom of speech * Peaceful demonstration * Security of life and property * Freedom from intimidation or interference

(2) In policing demonstrations, members of the Police should:
* Maintain teamwork and discipline
* Exercise tact, tolerance and restraint
* Remain impartial
* Use their powers reasonably and properly."

As far as I am concerned, the Police did NOT follow their own Police General Instructions, although they were read out by myself.

Security guards should NOT be used in these situations. My democratic rights were violated by the Security guards, and the Police backed them up. I was wrongfully arrested, and there will be repercussions. There are major parallels here with the issues raised by the Inquiry into matters relating to the visit of the President of China to New Zealand in 1999. The same violations of the rights of New Zealand citizens to peaceful protest and freedom of expression have been allowedat tonight's Auckland City Council meeting.

(I was not present at the Council meeting, but Wake Up Auckland Media Spokespeople will be reporting on what happened there.)

JOIN THE MARCH THIS SATURDAY TO SHOW YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE UNLAWFUL, DRACONIAN TACTICS OF JOHN BANKS! STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY, AND MARCH!

Remember: Assemble at QE 2 Square (Downtown) by 11.00am this Saturday March 16.

Penny Bright

PH: (09) 846 9825


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