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Tas police support democratic right to protest, but not when ‘extreme antics’ expose officers to unreasonable risks, says Commissioner

Posted by gmarkets on 8 October, 2007

Tasmania Police could not support people’s democratic right to protest lawfully in any form in all circumstances, wrote Richard McCreadie, Commissioner of Police, in The Mercury (2/10/2007, p.15). Support for protesters: “We support lawful protests on behalf of any cause, be they in the forests, on the lawns of Parliament House or any other location and will continue to do so. In fact, Tasmania Police has on countless occasions facilitated marches through the streets, providing personnel and escorts to ensure the safe passage of protesters to Parliament House, delivering them to the very seat of power to deliver their message. We facilitated forestry protesters’ interaction with the media in the Tarkine because they made their protest within the law.

Up to a point . . .: “I have a duty of care to protect my members from unreasonable risks in managing any form of protest. In recent times, I have had police officers dangling on ropes from helicopters to extract a protester from a tree. On another occasion, a protester cut the rope of a Search and Rescue officer scaling a tree, causing him to fall a considerable distance to the ground. There have been other dangerous practices involving ropes, wires and concrete pipes. In many cases, unlawful protests involving extreme antics expose my officers to unreasonable risks and require resources well over and above a normal police response.

Police responsibilities: “Expenses involved in hiring cranes, using helicopters and the extensive use of large numbers of police over an extended period, could be avoided if protesters chose to make their point lawfully. Our intervention in these unlawful protests is not a matter of choice for Tasmania Police. Justice Wright in the Supreme Court made it very clear in the APPM dispute that police have a responsibility to allow people to go about their lawful business. Extreme, unlawful protests requiring a large-scale response cost thousands of dollars and call emergency services away from the other tasks that they would normally be doing to keep our community safe. My question is whether it is reasonable for the public to bear the cost of avoidable, unlawful events when there is a clear opportunity for protesters to behave lawfully to get their message across,” the Commissioner added.

The Mercury, 2/10/2007, p. 15

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