Occupy appeals removal of 'tent city'
Protesters from the Occupy Auckland movement are back in court appealing a decision that forced them to leave their camp at Aotea Square last year.
The group, led by serial campaigner Penny Bright, will argue the Auckland Council bylaw upheld by Judge David Wilson is a breach of human rights including freedom of expression.
"The central question is, can council bylaws trump our lawful right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest under the New Zealand Bill of Rights act?" Bright said.
Council lawyers are expected to refute the claims. However, in an unusual move, lawyers from the Attorney General's office have intervened in proceedings and will be heard later today.
Attorney General representative Austin Powell said the issue had the potential to impact on wider human rights issues, particularly because the bylaw required prior permission to stage a protest, and could discourage others from exercising their right to free speech.
The protesters occupied land in Aotea Square from October last year until January this year, as part of the world wide Occupy movement against wealth inequality and corporate influence on government.
They were eventually removed by police - with some arrested and charged - following a ruling from the court.
Auckland Council had argued the "tent city" was a breach of the city's bylaw that regulates public spaces because, among other things, it was causing damage to grass.
Judge Wilson, in his ruling upholding that stance, said the group did not "practise what they preached".
"While Occupy Auckland proclaims its adherence to participatory democracy the evidence reveals that they do not practise what they preach. They did not do so when they decided to occupy Aotea Square. They did not ask those who live and work around Aotea Square... what they would think if Aotea Square... turned into a tent city."
Judge Wilson said although Aotea Square was used for protests, Occupy Auckland gave the council no notice of their intention to camp in the square.
The appeal hearing is expected to last up to two days.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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