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Government & legal system

Different types of protests

Posters, banners and graffiti

Posters and banners

Summary Offences Act 1981, s 33

It’s illegal to put up posters, banners or placards on someone else’s property without their permission. This offence is called “billsticking”. The maximum penalty is a $200 fine.

Graffiiti

Summary Offences Act 1981, ss 11, 11A

It’s illegal to “damage or deface” any building or other structure (a bridge for example) by writing, drawing, painting, spraying or etching on it, or by marking it in some other way. This offence also covers tagging roads, trees or other property like trains, cars and yachts.

For this offence you can be fined up to $2,000, or given a community-based sentence (like community work or supervision), or both. For more information, including what sentence you could get, see the chapter “Common crimes”, under “Tagging and graffiti”.

If you cause more serious damage when you’re graffiti-ing, the police may decide to charge you with the more serious offence of intentional damage (or “wilful damage”), which has heavier penalties. For details, see the chapter “Common crimes”, under “Tagging and graffiti / Facing heavier charges: Wilful or intentional damage”.

Blindfolding colonial statues

In June 2020, an activist group in Wellington made a peaceful political protest against colonisation and racism by placing blindfolds over the eyes of colonial statues.

As the protest began, the Police told the protestors explicitly that they could go ahead with it. Wellington City Council also commented after the protest that no official action was needed.

Blindfolding a statue hasn’t been specifically considered by the courts, but it seems unlikely that it could be a breach of the criminal laws dealing with “damaging”, “defacing” or “marking” public or private property: see above, “Graffiti”.

Where there was no harm to property and no danger to the protesters installing the blindfolds or any member of the public, legal action would be unlikely.

If the police did bring charges under those laws, then the judge would have to take into account the right to freedom of expression in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The effect of the Bill of Rights would also be to prevent the judge from extending the meaning of terms like “damaging”, “defacing” and so on in a forced and unnatural way to include blindfolding a statue.

Next Section | Flag burning

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Activism

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Treaty of Waitangi

www.nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/treaty-of-waitangi

This NZ History webpage has information about the Treaty of Waitangi and events and issues surrounding it. The website is run by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Waitangi Tribunal

www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz

This website has information about the Waitangi Tribunal.

To start the Tribunal process of submitting a claim, you can either: call the Tribunal office for queries on (04) 914 3000, or email them at WT.Registrar@justice.govt.nz

Matike Mai Report

www.nwo.org.nz/resources/report-of-matike-mai-aotearoa-the-independent-working-group-on-constitutional-transformation/

Matike Mai Aotearoa is an Independent Working Group dedicated to Constitutional Transformation based on tikanga and kawa in Aotearoa/New Zealand. This report outlines their vision, research and findings.

Human Rights Commission

www.hrc.co.nz

The Human Rights Commission was set up in 1977 and works under the Human Rights Act 1993. Their purpose is to promote and protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

www.hrc.co.nz/our-work/indigenous-rights/our-work/undrip-and-treaty/

The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was set up in 2010 for the purpose of increasing the UN’s commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Privacy Commissioner

www.privacy.org.nz

The Privacy Commissioner has a wide range of functions, including investigating complaints about breaches of privacy, running education programmes, and examining proposed legislation and how it may affect individual privacy.

Advocacy organisations and support services

Rainbow Youth

www.ry.org.nz

RainbowYOUTH provide a number of services, including advocacy for queer, gender diverse, takatāpui & intersex youth, their friends, whānau and wider communities.

Disabled Persons Assembly NZ

www.dpa.org.nz

Disabled Persons Assembly NZ provides direct support and advocacy, and work in collaboration with others to achieve inclusion for all New Zealanders.

Mental Health Foundation

www.mentalhealth.org.nz

The Mental Health Foundation has useful links and resources for people dealing with mental health issues.

Helplines

www.health.govt.nz/your-health/services-and-support/health-care-services/mental-health-services

Police Brutality & Activist Trauma Support and Recovery

medium.com/@jessieden/a-resource-for-activists-working-through-trauma-82a9807712be

The Police Brutality & Activist Trauma Support and Recovery resource is a booklet made by activists for activists, with accessible information on what trauma is, how it affects people, and ideas for supporting yourself and others through it.

Also available as a book

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