Peace activists demonstrate on Anzac Day, sparking debate over freedom of assembly

Peaceful Assembly

Peace activists gathered during the ANZAC commemoration in Wellington on 25th April 2017; however, New Zealand's Chief of Staff David Broome and his son interrupted a media interview with activists to inform the demonstrators that their actions were inappropriate. The activists, however, claimed that they were there to remember all those who had died as a result of war, declaring that: "You can't remove politics from war".

The non-violent confrontation between the activists and chief-of-staff sparked a debate over whether ANZAC Day is more sacred than the right to peaceful protest. As reported by the Manawatu Standard, the chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties stated that:

"Anzac Day is no different from any other day – we don't give up our civil liberties on Anzac Day. Moreover, it would seem that it is the most appropriate day to protest New Zealand's involvement in foreign wars, as this is exactly what Anzac Day is about".

Expression

In April 2017, a group of 27 high-profile New Zealanders penned an open letter warning that freedom of speech was under threat in the country's universities. The letter was in response to the closure of the Auckland University European Students Association (AUESA) that had received threats and been accused of white supremacy, ultra-nationalism and racism. The controversy erupted after AUESA displayed symbols commonly used by white supremacist groups on its Facebook page. AUESA subsequently announced the closure of the organisation and due to threats of violence received after posting the controversial symbols.