Right to protest lost for those who ‘threaten, harass and disrupt’, warns deputy PM

Deputy PM Grant Robertson on the right to protest
Deputy PM Grant Robertson says as Wellington Central MP he has received many complaints this week about the protest in the capital. Image: Angus Dreaver/RNZ

RNZ News

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has warned that although people have a right to protest when “they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city they lose that right”.

In a post on Facebook, Robertson — who is also Finance Minister and MP for Central Wellington where the five-day-old Parliament protest is happening — said he was contacted by many constituents this week who were distressed at what was happening in the city.

“School pupils spat at and harassed for wearing a mask, roads blocked delaying public transport and emergency services and businesses shut down,” he said.

Robertson said there had also been threats of violence against politicians and the media.

The protester threats came as New Zealand had a record 454 community cases today — up on yesterday’s previous record — as omicron cases begin to surge.

“Looking down on a protest that wants to hang me as a politician, a sign that compares the Prime Minister to the March 15th terrorist, calls for arrest and execution of me and other leaders you might understand why I believe the police need to move them on.”

Robertson acknowledged that protest was an important part of democracy, but said that “like all freedoms it comes with responsibilities”.

He said in the past he had led protests onto Parliament grounds and discussed with those involved that if they crossed certain lines they would be arrested.

‘Threatening a whole city’
“I was always of the view that the cause or the issue was what mattered most, and we would strive to make our point, and then move on to live to fight another day,” he said.

Robertson said people lose the right to protest when “they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city”.

Canada court orders end to trucks' bridge protest
Canada court orders an end to the trucks’ bridge protest … the Canadian anti-mandate truckers “inspired” the New Zealand convoy and protest this week. Image: BBC screenshot APR

He said the protesters at Parliament had been trespassed and needed to leave.

Robertson thanked police for doing a difficult job in trying conditions and said it was up to them how they enforced the law.

He said as Wellington Central’s local MP he had been in regular contact with police and the city council to support the rights of those in the capital “to go about their lives free from harassment and severe disruption”.

“I am confident that this will happen, though it will no doubt take some time,” he said.

Robertson said the high vaccination rates reassured him that the protesters only represented a small minority.

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