Chris Hipkins condemns physical violence at protest after Posie Parker doused in red juice

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has condemned the level of physical violence shown during protests over the weekend.

On Saturday, gender activist Posie Parker held a rally at Albert Park in Auckland and counter-protesters against her also showed up to the event. Parker had to be escorted away by private security and police after having red juice dumped on her by a pro-transgender activist.

Videos from the event show scuffles in the crowd and Parker being pushed and squeezed as she was walked out of the park.

Speaking about the weekend's protest, Hipkins said "violence shouldn't come into it" and no one should use it to convey their views.

"I don't believe people should throw things at a protest, whether what they're throwing is a soup or a brick," he told reporters during his post-Cabinet press conference.

"Ultimately, the right to free speech does not extend to the right to physical violence, and so I would condemn that, regardless of who's engaging in that type of activity."

However, he acknowledged that most people at the protest exercised their right to free speech respectfully.

"I think that is something we should celebrate. As I've said, I'll never support people who resort to violence."

But the Free Speech Union believes free speech wasn't upheld, particularly by police who "failed in their duty to protect these foundational rights".

"The counter-protest on Saturday used the 'Thug's Veto' to silence opponents, not through debate or reason, but through manifest intimidation," they said in a public letter to Police Minister Ginny Andersen.

"Without the right to peacefully gather and express beliefs and opinions, controversial or condemnable though some may consider them to be, free speech is no longer protected in New Zealand. Free speech guarantees the right to both express perspectives and views, and also to hear others' perspectives and views."

They further called on Police Commissioner Andrew Coster to acknowledge the "lack of action to defend the basic speech rights" of those who attended the Let Women Speak rally and added those who express "unpopular or controversial views in public are entirely in their right and deserve to be protected from threats, intimidation, and violence".

Andersen told Newshub she's been informed that police are making enquiries into all reports of offending during the events.

Auckland City District Commander Inspector Grant Tetzlaff said the role of police at events like those in the weekend is to keep the peace and uphold the law while recognising the right to protest.

"Police is well-practised in dealing with these events, and our staff work to ensure an effective response is provided based on the circumstances at the time," he told Newshub.

No one was arrested on the day, but police are still looking into Saturday's events. They are also reviewing CCTV footage and video of the protest posted to social media to determine if any other offending may have occurred, Insp Tetzlaff added.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Newshub.

Hipkins didn't go into detail on what he thought of the police response, saying this isn't something ministers should give direction on.

He did, however, speak on comments Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson made after the protest. She claimed it was "white cis men" who cause violence in the world, although she later walked back these comments and said they were "not as clear" as they should have been.

She was "in shock" after being hit by a motorcycle and was then "confronted" shortly after by a member of the far-right Counterspin media platform who asked for her thoughts on Parker being "violently assaulted" during the protest.

"A clip of that video is now circulating online and is being used to distract from a broader conversation about the causes of violence in Aotearoa," she said.

"Still in shock, I was not as clear in my comments to the conspiracy theorists Counterspin as I should have been."

Davidson said, "violence is unacceptable in any community and as the Minister responsible for Aotearoa's first-ever plan to eliminate family violence and sexual violence, I am committed to an Aotearoa where all people are safe and can live peaceful lives".

Hipkins said he doesn't expect perfection from people, "particularly not when they've just experienced a trauma like that", but he didn't think her comment was appropriate.

"But I think, in the circumstances, I think some leeway should be given to someone saying something which on reflection they felt didn't convey what they were intending to convey."

He added it's important in New Zealand they try and conduct their politics in a way that allows people to get out there and engage and talk to one another in a way that's "safe and respectful".