VALS supports Allan Government’s rejection of protest permits

In Victoria, freedom of speech is enshrined in the state’s Charter of Human Rights. This right must be protected.

Yesterday, the Victorian Police Association called for a permit system to be implemented to control and limit protests that occur in Victoria, in yet another knee-jerk reaction to inflammatory media reports that are not representative of the wider Victorian community.

VALS supports Premier Allan’s rejection of the idea of a permit system, acknowledging that protesting is a vital part of living in a democratic society.

However, we urge that as part of this right to peaceful protesting, the Victorian Government ensures that Victoria Police do not continue to use violence and brutality on those who want their voices to be heard.

VALS supports Melbourne Activist Legal Support’s (MALS) calls for an immediate ban on police use of explosive weapons and disorientation devices such as ‘flashbangs’, and stricter controls on the use of kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs) including rubber bullets and bean bag rounds.

Victoria Police used these weapons against protesters who were picketing at Webb Dock in Port Melbourne on Friday 22 March, 2024, causing serious injury to at least one person.

VALS maintains that a permit system would impact many groups in Victoria who have a long history of peaceful protest, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

It would impact the Victorian Palestinian community, who we have stood alongside to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and across all of Palestine-Israel.

It would impact the Trans community of Victoria, who have been peacefully protesting for anti-vilification laws to prohibit all forms of hate speech, including vilification based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

It would impact communities who protest against the continued destruction of First Nations Country, the land our peoples have cared for over 60,000 years.

International human rights law affirms that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination in the exercise of our rights, including the right to protest.

Victoria Police shouldn’t be the ones to decide when people can exercise their freedom of speech. It should not be up to police to decide which voices are worthy of being granted “permission” to be heard.

Quotes attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:

Our people have a democratic right to have our voices heard about issues that affect us. That is why we protest. The Allan Government have made the right decision to protect this right instead of appeasing the police.”

“The police have shown that they have no problem using violence and force against our communities, and a permit system would only allow them to use even more of that.”

“Victoria Police must be banned from using inhumane means such as explosives and disorientation devices to ‘crowd control’ which go against our right to protest peacefully.”

Quotes attributable to Tarneen Onus-Browne, Board member of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and community organiser for Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance:

“A permit to protest defeats the point of a protest, and impacts our democratic rights.”

“Protests should be safe spaces for First Nations people and all marginalised people in Victoria to have their voices heard. When police use excessive force or violence, it is no longer a safe space.”

Quotes attributable to Associate Professor Crystal McKinnon, Board member and Chair of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service:

“A permit system like the one proposed by the Victorian Police Association would be a return to the mission days of the police and state controlling where Aboriginal people can go and who we can see.”

“The right to protest is crucial to any progressive democratic society. We at VALS are alarmed at the potential harmful impacts of a protest permit system on our Aboriginal community here in Victoria, and also on other communities who are our allies, including the Union Movement, the Palestinian community and trans and gender diverse communities.”

“The Allan Government needs to join us in condemning the use of inhumane and violent tactics by Victoria Police against people who are exercising their rights to protest and making their voices heard for equity and justice.”


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