Dunedin police consider protesters' rights before acting

By APNZ, Otago Daily Times

The Occupy Dunedin group has been living in tents in central Dunedin's Octagon for 19 days. Photo / Otago Daily Times
The Occupy Dunedin group has been living in tents in central Dunedin's Octagon for 19 days. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Police are considering the legal position of protesters who remain camped in Dunedin's centre following an eviction deadline.

The Occupy Dunedin group has been living in tents in central Dunedin's Octagon for 19 days to "camp for freedom".

The Dunedin City Council yesterday (Tuesday) issued a trespass notice warning them to cease camping, or face a fine of up to $1000 or imprisonment for less than three months.

However, the group remained in the same spot following yesterday's 8pm deadline.

Police were considering if the ongoing protest was a sufficient basis for arresting and charging those involved under the Trespass Act, Inspector Greg Sparrow said today.

Yesterday he said he was aware of the trespass notice, but "this is not a straightforward matter and requires careful consideration from a police perspective".

"Any power to trespass people protesting in a public place must be exercised reasonably and balance rights and freedoms. These are the issues that we are currently working through with the council," he said.

The Occupy Dunedin, which has links to the Mana Party, the Unite union and the International Socialist organisation, had members ranging from toddlers to pensioners.

Numbers swelled to several hundred before yesterday's deadline and the group's Facebook page has more than 850 supporters.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the group were breaching two bylaws, the reserves bylaw and the camping control bylaw and had rejected an alternative camping site at Market Reserve.

At a group rally that breach was rejected by one protester - "we are not freedom camping, we are camping for freedom".

- APNZ

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