Hundreds take to street against spy law

Protesters converge on Trafalgar St

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 29/07/2013
Protest march
MARTIN DE RUYTER/ Fairfax NZ

Hundreds of people gathered on Trafalgar Street to protest proposed changes to laws that govern our spies.

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New legislation to expand the power of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is stripping away New Zealanders' personal rights and liberties, bringing the country closer to a police state, protesters have been told.

About 250 protesters of all ages marched up Trafalgar St in Nelson on Saturday afternoon, chanting "GCSB, don't spy on me" and holding placards reading "Spy Law: The GNats Have The Key NZ Is Nearly Dunne" and "Peeping John".

They were protesting against the controversial Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Bill and other related changes that will expand the legal power of the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders.

At the 1903 site, the protesters heard from a range of speakers.

Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street said that if elected, Labour would repeal the law and replace it with something that provided a proper balance and care for the rights and privacy of New Zealanders.

"Every country needs to maintain its own security but what we can't stand for is that in a free and democratic country like New Zealand, citizens' personal rights and liberties are stripped away."

The way the bill was being forced through under urgency was not normal, she said.

"If the Government was serious they would not be rushing this piece of legislation."

The assembled crowd was standing up for "the freedom to live as free citizens, nothing less than that".

Either Key understood what the bill would do to ordinary New Zealanders and did not care, or he did not understand, she said.

"Either way he is not fit to be prime minister. This is no way to run a country."

Nelson writer and activist Mary Ellen O'Connor also spoke, giving a potted history of the spy organisation, from the Waihopai Spy Base set up in 1989 to its recent history involving illegally spying on internet mogul Kim Dotcom.

The organisation was still contributing to United States intelligence efforts, she said.

"The only thing that keeps those things going is our silence."

Green Party representative Aaryn Barlow said the bill was bad law and his party was committed to repealing it.

"We don't want to live in a police state, we don't want ‘metadata' harvested from New Zealanders," he said

It was clear the Government's priorities allegiances did not lie with New Zealanders, but rather to foreign governments and companies, he said.

Protest organiser Colin Robertson said the law change was about making illegal actions legal, and illegitimate behaviour legitimate.

As well as infringing on the rights of Kiwis, it was also bad for the economy, as overseas businesses would be unlikely to want to store their data in the country if they could not be confident of its security.

"It must be stopped and we will stop it," he said.

Nayland College student Isabella O'Connor, 17, holding a sign with an eyeball and the word "spy" printed on it, said she had attended the protest to hear more about the bill.

Her family was politically active - Mary Ellen O'Connor is her auntie - so she had heard plenty of negative reaction from others, and the march had reinforced what she had already been told.

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"[The Government] want to know everything. Their claims of how it will benefit us don't really stack up," she said.

More young people needed to get involved in the political process, she said.

Motueka resident Mark McPherson brought along his wife and two children to the protest, saying the issue was about the Government encroaching on basic human rights.

"This is vital to send a message to the politicians that people are aware and prepared to come together and stand up."

- The Nelson Mail

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