The group formed to pressure the City of Perth to stop harassing activist events and to remove local laws that are in conflict with free speech rights. This was after rangers tried to suppress a number of actions including the Nyoongar Tent Embassy and an April 21 rally against unconventional gas fracking.
The open letter, which has been signed by independent journalist John Pilger among others, calls for the council to recognise free speech rights including the right to assemble and protest, hold up signs, set up stalls to collect signatures on petitions and distribute information, and put up posters to advertise community events.
Scaffidi said she personally and the council already supports free speech. She disingenuously said activists simply needed to “seek approval” via a “simple application”.
But Defend Free Speech said the fees are prohibitive, public liability insurance (which typically is a condition of approval) is virtually impossible to secure and several other barriers exist to getting official approval for activist stalls and protests.
Scaffidi did not respond. She also ignored the fact that City rangers had seized stalls and ripped signs from people’s hands at protest actions.
Jess McLeod from the Curtin University Guild and a member of Defend Free Speech Perth asked a formal question of the Perth City Council before its May 25 meeting. Almost 20 activists from the group attended the council meeting. But the council was adjourned and the activists ejected from the chamber.
Other activities planned by Defend Free Speech Perth include a speak out on May 26 and a Free Speech Festival on July 7.
[For more information phone Alex Bainbridge 0413 976 638 or Jess McLeod 0416 160 605. Sign the open letter here.]