A wire service report from earlier today
Protesters blockade Parliament House
From: AAP November 23, 2009 12:34PM
CLIMATE change protesters have blockaded Parliament House in Canberra.
Security guards have shut the front entrance of the parliament and about a dozen police are at the scene.
Police are blocking the media from speaking with the 200 protesters who are a mix of the elderly, teenagers and mums and dads.
The demonstrators, in a statement, said they came from across Australia and are calling on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to secure a strong, legally binding treaty at the upcoming UN Copenhagen negotiations.
The Sydney Morning Herald is running the same story. I’ll update the post if the story changes, early reports can be wrong or simply mis-communications.
Obviously the right to protest doesn’t extend to blockades of the parliament, but surely the police can’t stop the media talking to the people. While its not too hard to have a protest at Parliament House (I’ve helped with one against the Net Filter), I’ve heard of several groups having issues with the police around parliament house, from the home birth mums to the crestfallen Republicans. Nothing major, but given the importance and specific design of the lawn across the road from Parliament, it would be a great loss if in the name of security or simply overzealousness we lost our freedom to protest outside our parliaments, as seems to have already happened in Tasmania with the arrest of Peter Cundall.
Update: If anything the media has re-enforced the story:
The Australian: “Police have formed a human barricade and are taking protesters out of the sight of the media. The Australian Federal Police have at least one video cameraman filming the protest. In Britain, police have used similar methods to gather intelligence on many left wing organisations.”
SMH.com.au: “Police dragged remaining protesters to an area under parliament, out of sight of reporters and photographers. An Australian Federal Police cameraman filmed the demonstrators. Some police officers involved were not wearing either name tags or identification numbers. One officer, when asked, said his was on his jacket which he had taken off.”
Obviously the decision to race the doors is unacceptable, and I think the police right to break up such a protest as soon as possible. What’s less forgivable is the effort to censor the protesters from the media, and prevent legitimate coverage of the event. No security risk was presented through the media interviewing such people, it was just damage control in the name of their bosses. That’s not a good enough excuse for curtailing freedom of speech and of the press in this country.