Free speech group says 'dangerous precedent' will be set if they lose lawsuit

A member of the Free Speech Coalition says the decision to not let two far-right speakers perform at a council venue could lead to a loss of free speech in New Zealand.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were going to speak at the Auckland Council-owned Bruce Mason Centre, but Mayor Phil Goff announced on Twitter they would not be able to use the theatre.

"[Council] venues shouldn't be used to stir up ethnic or religious tensions. Views that divide rather than unite are repugnant and I have made my views on this very clear. Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux will not be speaking at any Council venues," Mr Goff said.

"Let me be very clear, the right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an [Auckland Council] platform for that speech."

The Free Speech Coalition has launched legal action against the decision, which member David Cumin says was either based on Mr Goff's beliefs or threats of violence from those opposed to the pair.

"What we have here is an elected official who's using his power to shut down views he doesn't like or the alternative is it's a health and safety issue," he said.

"[That would mean] there are some extreme people who are threatening violence to stop views that they don't want us to hear or that they don't want to speak."

The suit was officially filed on Wednesday and Mr Cumin expects a judge to look at it on Thursday. He said if the group does not win it could spell bad things for New Zealand.

"We've filed a suit in the court, hopefully the judge will look at it today and I think there's a great chance of winning," he said.

"If not it sets a very dangerous precedent because the next Mayor can use the precedent to shut down views that they may not like."

Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux are members of the far-right and have gained prominence through their use of social media to promote their views.

Mr Molyneux has used his vlogs to discuss topics such anti-feminism, diversity and anarcho-capitalism.

In 2018 he called the artist Kehinde Wiley, who painted Obama's presidential portrait, a "white genocide fetish artist".

Ms Southern has become popular online for her vlogs and live streams.

In 2017 she was detained in Italy for attempting to block the passage of a boat that planned to rescue ship-wrecked migrants. Ms Southern live streamed the incident on Periscope.

Neither have been barred entry to the country and Mr Goff told RNZ the pair are welcome to find a private venue of their choosing.


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