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NZ police behaviour at Let Women Speak event to be investigated

In brief
  • Independent Police Conduct Authority to review police inaction at this event, after complaints.
  • Hecklers’ veto and violence targeted women’s rights activists.
  • NZ media and politicians downplayed violence that occurred, labelling Let Women Speak event as hateful.
  • Parker is returning to NZ in September. The Free Speech Union expresses their support.

Independent review of police inaction

The IPCA (Independent Police Conduct Authority) announced a review into the police response to the scuttled Let Women Speak event in Auckland, in March 2023, following 162 complaints. 

Many were made by “concerned citizens” who’d seen media coverage of the event while dozens of complainants had attended in person.

Complaints include concerns about inadequate police action to protect Kelly-Jay Keen-Minshull’s freedom of expression and failure to prosecute assaults that occurred at the event.

Keen-Minshull is a British women’s rights activist who also goes by the name Posie Parker. 

The scope and timing of this review are yet to be finalised, but it will likely assess police planning and response during the protest. A report will, presumably, be made publicly available.

Suppressing free speech 

The event faced the “heckler’s veto” (also known as the “thug’s veto”) as protestors physically overpowered the audience, hindering free speech. Although some argue such behaviour is counter-speech, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, professor Nadine Strossen, argues that their prevention of Keen-Minshull from being heard constitutes censorship. 

Keen-Minshull was physically abused with tomato juice, and claims to have received further online abuse from her alleged assailant, Eli Rubashkyn, since the event. 

And she wasn’t the only victim of violence  at the Let Women Speak event in March. A 71-year- old woman was punched in the face by a 20-year-old man from Gisborne. 

The media and Government fanned the flames

Speak Up For Women and Keen-Minshull faced opposition from universities, councils and Government officials, attempting to censor and silence discussions about women’s legal rights. 

NZ police behaviour at Let Women Speak event to be investigated - Centrist
There were 162 complaints over how Police handled events at Posie Parker’s (pictured) rally in March 2023. Image from YouTube

Michael Wood, who was Immigration Minister at the time, made inflammatory statements about Keen-Minshull by associating her with extremist groups that she vehemently opposes. 

The media largely ignored her core positions, such as advocating for women’s privacy in personal spaces and fairness in sports, and often portrayed the mob successfully disrupting her rally with violence as peaceful and loving.

Posie Parker returning to NZ in September

On the same day as the IPCA announcement, Keen-Minshull revealed she is planning a return to New Zealand. Rubashkyn faces his assault charge at the Auckland District Court on September 20, and Keen-Minshull is organising another Let Women Speak event outside his court hearing. Her visitor’s visa has been approved.

Before her last trip to New Zealand an online petition demanded Keen-Minshull be excluded from the country. Following this, LGBT2QIA+ rights groups sought a judicial review to prevent her arrival, but the high court  rejected the application after a hearing in Wellington.

The Free Speech Union has welcomed the IPCA report, and announced support for Keen-Minshull’s upcoming trip. 
“The Free Speech Union is preparing to once again defend her entry into the country (as we did as interveners at the previous judicial review) and to ensure that the Thugs’ Veto does not once again silence her or those wishing to hear from her,” says Free Speech Union chief executive Jonathan Ayling.

Feature image by SleepsDarkly

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