Occupy Auckland protestors raise their voices in court

By Hayley Hannan

Photo / Amos Chapple
Photo / Amos Chapple

Protesters who have been camping in the middle of Auckland filled a courtroom today, bursting with song, indignation and flute music.

Occupy Auckland has been camping in Aotea Square in the central city since October 15 to protest against capitalism as part of a worldwide movement.

Auckland Council issued a trespass notice against the group to vacate them from the public land in late November.

After the temporary tent community refused to budge, Auckland Council took them to court for an injunction to trespass the protesters.

A mob of shouting Occupy Auckland protesters arrived at the Auckland District Court this morning after a spirited march from Aotea Square.

Supporters packed out the public area of the court before Judge David Wilson, and were told off by security guards for singing and playing flutes in court.

Ross Burns, who appeared for Auckland Council, said the protesters were breaching a council bylaw and infringing on the rights of others. He said while protesters entitled to freedom of expression, they were stopping Aucklanders from using public space.

"The protest has become an unreasonable infringement on the rights of others...Auckland Council is seeking to enforce bylaws that benefit every member of the community."

He said it would cost about $65,000 to repair a lower tier grassy patch already vacated after being camped on.

Mr Burns cited a similar Canadian case, in which it was argued protesters infringed on the rights of neighbours and users of a park where they were camped, as they didn't consult the parties before moving in.

Protesters had claimed a section of Aotea Square as their own.

The protesters were "surprised and disappointed" at not being notified of a recent art installation which "blocks the view of Occupy Auckland from Queen St", despite the fact the grounds are public, he said.

Activist Penny Bright appeared for herself, and said "misinformation" had been circulated, and "secret affidavits" had been signed by Auckland Council.

She labelled the fight again the council as "David vs Goliath".

Natalie Verdouw, a special project manager for Occupy Auckland, said the movement failed to provide a plan showing clear changes despite six weeks of negotiations.

She said alternative locations were offered for the group, so the group could remain in a visible and central spot, but failed to come back with any locations.

The council tried to get an interim injunction last Tuesday but campaigners were given more time to prepare.

The matter, set down for two days, continues.

- APNZ

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