100 signatures reached
To: City of Perth
Free speech should be free – City of Perth stop harassing and prosecuting activists
Dear City of Perth,
Stop harassing and prosecuting social justice activists!
Free speech should be free. Yet on 8 November 2019, an activist was forced to pay $1102.40 by the City of Perth for handing out anti-racist leaflets. On 30 January City of Perth officers called the police on a group of activists, and shut down their stall. One of the City of Perth officers acted aggressively, attempting to illegally confiscate the group’s materials and belittling the activists. Also, this year, on March 1 school strikers for climate were threatened with $200 fines for each poster, when they were advertising the March 12 School strike for climate.
Back in 2012, City of Perth officers shut down a CBD rally against gas fracking, seizing banners, placards and tables, claiming that they were in violation of council by-laws. After a long campaign, the protesters won in court, and the City of Perth stopped harassing activists for exercising their rights.
But now the City of Perth is at it again.
Any genuine democracy needs a flourishing of ideas. Corporations and the big political parties drown us in their advertising. Yet social justice activists trying to get out a message of solidarity and anti-racism are harassed and fined.
City of Perth’s by-laws prohibit our rights to:
- assemble and protest;
- hold up signs;
- set up stalls to collect signatures on petitions and distribute information; and
- put up posters to advertise community events.
We call on you to rescind these by-laws and to stop harassing and fining activists.
Why is this important?
When the rich and powerful want to get their message across, they buy a billboard, or a TV station, or a politician. For the rest of us, we cannot even hold a placard without facing fines. City of Perth by-laws prohibit the "display [of] a hand held sign on ... a public place [without approval]". They also prohibit handing out leaflets without a permit. These permits can cost hundreds of dollars, can be restricted by time and location, and there is no obligation on the council to approve a permit.
These by-laws are archaic and contravene our basic human right to free speech. Furthermore, the City of Perth use their own discretion in how they apply the by-laws. They are the ones with a discretion to pick and choose what issues they will tolerate and what they will not. The council should not have the final say over public debate.
At a time of worsening inequality and racism, and climate crisis, we need more free speech and public debate, not activism being shut down.