Council shuts down “voiceless” animals protest in CBD
QUEENSLAND'S Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) has called Brisbane City Council's restrictions on a "peaceful protest" planned for the CBD this afternoon a step back to the "Joh Bjelke-Petersen" years.
Organisers of the Cube of Truth demonstration, about the treatment of animals in Australian agricultural industries, say council has imposed severe restrictions in a bid to shut them down.
The restrictions include prohibiting them from talking to members of the public unsolicited and banning them from showing any content on their monitors unless the public asks to view it.
In a letter to organisers Council advises they are not to display "any advertising matter, including graphic images or video content depicting cruelty to animals, portraying blood, gore, animal killing and the like"
The demonstrators, who will be at Reddacliff Place from 4.45pm today, said Council did not review any of the specific content proposed for public viewing, despite requests for Council to do so.
Cube Of Truth organisers said the content showed animals' journey in Australian farms and only a portion showed blood.
They claimed much of the content had already screened on national television, in newspapers and on social media.
QCCL president Michael Cope said the restrictions highlighted serious concerns about council's laws affecting public assembly and its violation of the State's Public Assembly Act (PAA) intention.
Mr Cope said most concerning of the restrictions was council's requirement that the group not speak to members of the public unsoliticted.
"If you applied that rule to charities, all hell would break loose," he said.
"Effectively council can sidestep the freedom created in the PAA and impose its own rules and no one has the capacity to review it. The legislation needs to be reviewed so they (the public) can go to a magistrate to challenge these restrictions."
Mr Cope said: "the people (the Cube of Truth) who are doing this are entitled to understand if they are committing an offence and what exactly what content is deemed not to comply.
He said council's actions were reminiscent of the "Joh days".
"One of the fundamental things about the 70s was that people would take their concerns to the Commissioner of Police and find they had nowhere else to go - this (council) is taking us back to that situation and that has to be changed.
"People have to be able to contest council's restrictions."
A spokeswoman for Anonymous for the Voiceless, who are organising the action in Reddacliff Place, said over the past five months council had tried to shut down The Cube of Truth demonstration.
"They told us they had received complaints but would not tell us anything about the nature of the complaints or how many," the spokeswoman Lisa, who wanted only to use her first name, said.
"We only engage with people who stop and watch the footage. One of our protocols is waiting for people to watch the footage for a period of time - we let them engage with the footage. If people don't want to watch we do not solicit. It's peaceful. It's very calm. We want to talk to people who stop. We ensure children don't see the footage unless their parent or carer approves."
Lisa said the footage used in the Cube of Truth was specific content from the Australian agricultural industry over the past 2-4 years much of which had already been aired on national television, in newspapers and on social media.
She said it only depicted standard industry practices.
Mr Cope also confirmed that any organisers had a right to have their content reviewed before it was deemed non compliant.
"If they are showing stuff that has been shown at 6pm elsewhere you could hardly complain about it - some stuff might be perfectly acceptable but it's not an absolute right (freedom of speech)."
"In a public place where children are present there is some right to protect them - but Council has an obligation to look at the material and then decide."
Lisa said at the end of the day organisers were concerned council was out of step with the world.
"They are trying to censor the truth and to render our peaceful assembly null and void which is a breach of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA)."
She said despite requesting to meet with council to discuss the footage and what might be deemed inappropriate, council officials had not set a time.
"Under the Public Land and Council Assets Law they have overridden the PAA and are not required to mediate with us.
"We are trying to act in good faith, to stand up for the animals and they are oppressing us.
"The footage is a rolling story of the animals' lives and it's not like we are showing it for shock value - it's the whole story."
Lisa said council had not reviewed the precise vision the Cube organisers wanted to show in the action.
"We asked them if they had seen the footage and they said yes but they had gone to a website that contains thousands of images - they never reviewed our precise footage.
"When we asked what was too graphic or gory - they said all of it but much of the vision is exactly what you will see if you drive one hour out of Brisbane past a factory farm."
Lisa said council's decision was very concerning for peaceful assembly of individuals.
"I can go into the city and see advertising everywhere that denigrates or sexualises women and there is distasteful advertising about gambling or betting and yet they veto our action.
"It's starting to look like a conflict of interest."
She said the Cube of Truth, which has held actions around the world without censorship, acted to "educate and inform interested members of the public about ethical food and lifestyle choices."
"We're just showing the truth. How do they justify hiding the truth from the public. The public has a right to know. It's not being censored by anyone else. Nothing we are showing is any different to that shown in over 10,000 Cube demonstrations around the world - not in Asia, or Russia or South America or Canada."
"It's quite disconcerting that council sees us as a threat. It also raises great concerns that if they silence us and get away with it, what will that mean for others."
Mr Cope said a starting point should be that you get your permission to assemble in one place not two. Currently organisers need to seek permission from both the State Government (police) and council.
"If council then wants to argue for restrictions then it should do so before a magistrate. Council seems to take the view the mall is only a place where you can sell things but people should be entitled to express their political views."
Council did not respond to questions on the matter, with a spokesman saying council would only reply to "urgent matters".
Excert from a letter to the Cube of Truth organisers from Brisbane City Council.
In regards to your comments, I can advise that no Notice of Intention application made by you for a public assembly in the Malls has been refused under the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 (PAA), however as your assemblies occur in an area designated as the Queen Street Mall (Reddacliff Place), the activities proposed as part of the assemblies require a permit under the Public Land and Council Assets Local Law 2014 (PLACA).
It is important to note that assembling under the PAA does not remove the need to obtain a permit under PLACA, where the assembly is conducted within a Mall, as Reddacliff Place is. If PLACA consent is not obtained, or a condition of the consent is not complied with, persons are liable to infringement notices for offences committed under this local law.
This has been confirmed by the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions of Hemelaar v Brisbane City Council  QCA 241 and Hemelaar v Brisbane City Council  HCASL 1. A copy of these decisions are attached.
Recently Notices of Permission have been issued to you, and within the permission notice, consent has been provided under PLACA for:
distributing any written material or communicating any advertising matter by means of placard, board, banner or article of a similar nature
However the display of any advertising matter, including graphic images or video content depicting cruelty to animals, portraying blood, gore, animal killing and the like, has not been consented to during the assemblies and would be a breach of PLACA. This condition has been made in consideration of section 15 (b)(i) and section 47 of PLACA.
Council may regulate and impose conditions on activities in Malls under PLACA to safeguard the health, safety and amenity of persons using those areas or affected by activities in or abutting those areas.
Additionally, directly approaching members of the public not involved in an assembly is a prohibited activity under Schedule 1, Table 2 - Activities in Malls and will not be consented too. Page 46 of PLACA (attached) highlights this local law and is part of all Public Assembly conditions in Malls.
These conditions are imposed on the PLACA permit. Therefore, s. 13 of the PAA does not apply and Council is not required to engage in mediation or seek further orders from the Court. However, as mentioned, I still encourage a meeting with Council to discuss these matters.
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